Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Nil Point!

I was not convinced we would win this one. I knew it would be close, but not which way it might go depending on refs and interpretation of the breakdown. All Blacks v Springboks games in South Africa are the Big Day Out games for AB fans here in the UK - afternoon kick-off and only an hour time difference. It usually means an annual pilgrimage to the Walkabout to bait our Jaapie Brethren, the hordes that inevitably outnumber even the ubiquitous ex-pat Kiwis in London, but this year it did not happen.

It felt like all my mates wanted to watch it apart. Each in a dark room. Alone ... just in case things went pear-shaped again. Personally, I had been to the Ikea in Tottenham Hale before the game, so I figured if I could survive that hell-hole, take that bullet for the team, then I could sit at home on my own couch with a pint and finally get some use out of my over-priced Sky Uk subscription.

Besides, I like Guinness - and chances are, waiting for a poured pint of Black Magic at the Walkie on Saturday would have been agony - like an English winger waiting for the ball.

So Carter is only human? He still recovered and kicked us well territorially. I am liking what I see now of the game plan adapting to the ELVs - we seem to have a few more options if things don’t work. Our 6,7 and 8 were tireless, we absolutely killed them in the breakdown and McCaw was everywhere ... sublime. And I enjoyed the spark Piri Weepu added when he came on. It seems Henry likes to keep him on the bench, fizzing ... then he revels in an appearance.

Maybe a reactive win than a full tilt blinding performance. We did score two great tries (and an opportunistic lurking Hooker score), but it was the huge, shuffling defensive effort that kept the Boks out. And it was great to not see too much high percentage, crazy stuff again.

One concern though: Can anyone remind when was the last time an All Black wing scored a try this year? It seems like forever. Where is Joe?

And so to the UK press. My favourite part of the weekend, when I see what the English scribes have been up to, or what planet they are on:

Lord Sphincter is up to his old tricks - I mean, I myself sometimes get signal interference on Sky in the heavy rain, but what channel is this guy actually watching!? The All Blacks were ‘nothing special’ and DC merely a ‘serviceable player’. Stop it, Steve-O ... my sides are aching. Besides, the last way an All Black would want to appear to an English fan is ‘serviceable’ - he might well end up in a hotel room getting ‘serviced’.

The Indy had Richie down as ‘giving the greatest displays in rugby history’. They also had a little preview of the game on Friday by the shabbily treated Brian Ashton - read between the lines and I think you see a guy very much in favour of the ELVs.

Aunty has us as ‘edging’ the Boks. 19-0? That’s a thicker edge than Brendan McCullum has ever swished his way to.

Good old Guardian lefties got a favourable report too, indeed the tone echoed Sky’s post match opinion of NZ rugby: “Crisis? What crisis?” Does this mean all rugby pundits here in the UK have a thing for Supertramp?

Congrats to Percy Montgomery too. He could not produce the fairytale 100th cap, but hell, 100 tests for South Africa? Pretty amazing when you think about the politics of their game. And they had a minute’s silence pre game for a recently departed Bok, who played a mere 4 tests for his country. Percy should get the back of a coin or bank note surely.

But maybe the best performance, the one that should be cherished the most for possibly saving the game for NZ game (or at least preserved our lead) ... it should go to the demonised Wayne Barnes for eyeing up Brian Habana’s trotter as it dabbed the chalk when he seemed to break free for a try. Mr Barnes can’t quite expect a lifetime of upgrades on Air NZ just yet, and I still can’t totally let go of his Cardiff effort last year, but well ... he was on the job.

80 minutes of the real season left. Off to Brisbane to beat the Wallabies. Hopefully, eh.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

A Week is a long tme ...

Watching Sky UK this morning, it seemed Zinny Brooke could hardly contain himself . He had ants in his pants, and I think I was the same.

Naturally being over here too means I can avoid the nastiest and utterly stupid rantings of some so-called NZ sports ‘writers’, but I still picked up on the undercurrent of derision that seems to permanently float so near the surface of All Black support these days, and it is embarrassing.

Yes, they did suck last week, and yes, certain players have convincingly played themselves out of the 22 ... even the 30. The coaches also got it horribly wrong to the point where the NZRFU HR Dept was feeling the heat, and we got hijacked in an ELV frenzy.

The All Blacks have lost crucially experienced players and are rebuilding. If Deans had been given the reigns, would it be any different two games in? I doubt it. In a choice between a complete clean out or continuity, I know what I would choose given a pretty successful 3-4 years ... bar (massive) the Cardiff blip.

Well done All Blacks. Some awesome individual efforts there, and so much attitude was brought today with the forwards committing and blowing out Wallabies everywhere. Keep it up, and please improve even more.

I don’t see why how the way the game was played today can’t a blueprint moving forward. We exhibited all our usual speed, width and quick hands, but it was tempered with a lot more control and a consideration of options, often followed by the correct strategic choice; Carter kicked much better tonight, and steadied us with territorial gains nicely. Plus the scrum was used more and (quelle horreur!) we attacked the Wallaby lineout with great effect.

I think the game in Sydney was turned into a shocking showcase for the ELVs in Test rugby - it was scrag, and that playsed into the hands of ‘footy’ style Australia. Eden Park was a game of rugby, and a thrilling 60 minutes.

We still have to dominate the other 20 minutes though to deserve the reputation of invincibility we so willingly apply to our beloved All Blacks. Less football-like 5 minute subs please!

And Manawatu beat Canterbury as well! First time since when, 1982 or something. Done in style too, hoaxing the touch judges into not awarding the final penalty that would have given it to the red and blacks. The greatest trick pulled by the green and whites since our ‘ball up the jumper’ ploy back in the Ranfurly Shield glory days of the late 70s.