New Zealand ominously rampant in Melbourne

I’ll be the first to admit I went into this match thinking the Wallabies had more than a fighting chance to win in Melbourne. And after Drew Mitchell’s charge down and try in the first 15 minutes, the little bit of luck you sometimes need to win tight games seemed to be on their side. Then from the resulting kick off, Carter, who doesn’t often get mugged, redeemed himself by charging down Berrick Barnes and going over. And you never really had any doubt who was going to win.

Cory Jane steps his way over the try line.

Every 12-18 months before a World Cup comes around, the All Blacks always seem to be people’s favourite to win it, and yet in the last three World Cups Australia, England and South Africa have rubbished these predictions. But surely, surely, this time round, in New Zealand, the trophy is the All Blacks to lose. Forget for one moment Australia’s idiotic indiscipline and Drew Mitchell’s red card; this was an awesome performance.

The way the All Blacks seemed to win back every restart, as Greg Martin brilliantly quipped, was as if they had employed a volleyball expert to help them with their spikes. Their ball retention was excellent and it’s impressive that the Wallabies managed to get any points on the board given how starved they were of possession. The back row of Kaino, McCaw and Read performs so well as a unit that Rocky Elsom and co were easily made to look second rate, one moment when Kaino handed off Richard Brown onto his back side springs to mind. But it’s not just in the back row, it’s all over the park. Muliaina at full back is playing as well as I can remember, his lines are sensational, his pace hasn’t waned with age. His first try, coming from an unbelievable in-field chip from Cory Jane, was beautiful to watch. They work so hard to win the ball and run it around the park, but there’s never any sign of strained effort, it all flows so smoothly and to use a sporting cliché, they really do make it look so easy. Joe Rokocoko’s finish in the second half was another touch of class amongst a whole collection of exceptional moments.

Joe Rokocoko scores with a superb finish.

For the Wallabies, Quade Cooper’s attacking edge was missed, and Berrick Barnes up against Ma’a Nonu always had mis-match written all over it in terms of power. The back row in particularly got pushed around and they are far better players than what they showed. Pocock at 7 is still a diamond of a player who gets better with every test, his work on the ground at the rucks being top class and he is worthy of being labelled as the next McCaw. The one thing I would say is it’s so easy to forget how young this Wallaby side is. Genia, Barnes, Horne, Pocock and O’Connor to name a few are still under 24, and some of the inexperience on the bench in the form of the Queenslanders Slipper and Simmons is a bit alarming. Robbie Deans has been applauded for his bold youthful selections and rightly so but against the All Blacks with 50 minutes on the clock and a man sent off you don’t want to be bringing on guys in the tight five who’ve only got 2 or 3 caps.

Corey Flynn (16) is congratulated by captain McCaw after scoring try number 7.

As for Mitchell’s red card for two yellows, the first one for a no-arms tackle is a penalty that is being given more and more in the game and rightly so. Owen Franks for the All Blacks had been similarly sent to the bin minutes before, so there can be no complaints there. As for the second, Craig Joubert was very clear to both captains that he wouldn’t tolerate any slowing down of the ball from tap penalties or quick lineouts, and yet Mitchell still went and did it. Joubert admitted in the process of issuing the card that he knew how it would affect the game, but he didn’t really have a choice. Whereas other referees might have let it slide, Joubert stuck to his word, and regardless of how it affected the game, that commands respect.

Bledisloe 2 is next week in Christchurch and you bet the Wallabies will work hard on their discipline and restarts in training. As for the All Blacks, expect more of the same.

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