Kiwis black out wobbly Aussies
Gavin Rich
October 16, 2011
The All Blacks did what the Springboks couldn’t do by translating pressure into points as Richie McCaw’s men steamed into their first World Cup final since 1995 with a comprehensive 20-6 semifinal win over the Wallabies at Eden Park.

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It sets up a rematch of the inaugural final at this same venue in 1987 between New Zealand and France, with the All Blacks going in as overwhelming favourites to clinch their first World Cup title in 24 years, and only their second in the history of the competition.

The New Zealand supporters know their team has an outstanding chance of ending their long drought, and the way they celebrated the final whistle, which fittingly for the All Blacks and their fans came as the man they love to hate, Quade Cooper, was dumped into touch by Richard Kahui, you might have thought they had won the trophy already.

To be sure the French, who on their form so far in this World Cup must be the worst team to get through to the final, are going to have to do something miraculous this week if they are going to stop the Kiwi juggernaut.

The cynical among the South Africans present and watching on television back home might well have suggested that where it started going right for the hosts in this match was that referee Craig Joubert penalised what wasn’t penalised on the Wallaby side in last week’s quarterfinal in Wellington.

The first two penalties were against ace Australian spoiler David Pocock as he went off his feet at the breakdown, something he wasn’t punished for by Bryce Lawrence seven days ago.

There were other things that also contributed to the All Blacks' dominance on the night, however, and one of them was the incisiveness they boast on attack.

With Israel Dagg being injected into the line with great effect, the New Zealanders had their opponents scrambling in the first quarter, and with the Wallabies slipping no fewer than 15 tackles in that period, it was a miracle the All Blacks weren’t further ahead than 8-3 after the 20 minute mark.

The All Blacks took the game by the scruff from the kick-off, which went too long from Australia, and they simply dominated the Wallabies by fronting them in the collisions, swarming all over them when they did get possession, and forcing them into mistakes.

After the poor Wallaby kick-off, the All Black pack laid down its marker in the first scrum, Piri Weepu kicked into the corner, and the Wallabies were already under massive pressure.


It was the perfect way for them to start, for it got the crowd boisterous.

It has to be said that the New Zealand public, and even the local media, seemed decidedly subdued in the final build-up – as if they knew that it was possible that this night could end horribly for them.

Once the game got going though ,it became obvious there was little chance of that, and the massive 60 000-strong crowd, clad mostly in black, just got louder and louder as the game progressed. By the time it ended, it felt like it might be New Year's Eve.

The All Blacks might have been a little too lateral on attack in the first minutes, but the Wallabies couldn’t get out of their 22.

James O’Connor carried the ball back over the line, and the All Blacks just applied the squeeze, and continued to do so.

With Dagg bursting through almost every time he got the ball, the crowd was on its feet a few times before finally he went through to be held up just short of the corner flag only to offload inside to Ma’a Nonu, who completed a brilliant try in the sixth minute.

It was the only try of a pulsating game, but it was enough for the All Blacks to assert their dominance and although Weepu missed some crucial kicks early on, one of them when he hit the post after the first Pocock misdemeanor, he was on target in the 12th minute to make it 8-0.

The Wallabies would have had New Zealand hearts all a flutter when Digby Ioane burst through not long after that and showed great pace and use of strength in plunging towards the All Black line, only to be brought up just short.

It was to be the closest the Wallabies came to scoring, and when O’Connor was on target with a penalty as this time McCaw was penalised at a defensive breakdown, you got the sense that what the Australians really needed then was a seven-pointer.

That suspicion was confirmed when in the 22nd minute the All Black third-choice flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who went into this game under great pressure, slotted a neat drop-goal to stretch the lead back to eight points.

The second quarter of the game was probably the Wallabies’ best, and with Cooper, who had a nightmare early on as the All Blacks kicked on him, dumped him and forced him into error, starting to find his feet, the visitors started to settle.

Indeed, it was Cooper who scored the next points with a drop-goal of his own.


But it followed a long period of sustained pressure from the Wallabies where they showed little potential to break down the All Black defence.

Still, had they scored next and cut the All Blacks' lead further before the imminent halftime break, the pressure might have been back on the Kiwis and all that speculation about choking might have started to reverberate around the stadium.

It didn’t turn out like that though, for it was the All Blacks who were next to score as Wallabies' skipper James Horwill failed to take a high ball and a player in front of him grabbed it to be caught off-side.

Weepu slotted it from a fair distance out but from a position in the middle of the field to make it 14-6 and that eight-point buffer would have had the All Blacks breathing easier as they took the break.

There were elements of the All Blacks' game that showed they have adjusted to the demands of finals rugby, one of them the accurate box kicks and high balls that brought a lot of reward and kept the Wallabies pinned in their own territory throughout the second period.

Two more Weepu penalties, one of them two minutes into the second half and the other 10 minutes from the end, were enough to confirm the Wallaby exit.

In many ways it was a similar game to the quarterfinal, with the All Blacks dominating possession and territory, the difference being that they got the points on the board, and of course there was also a decent referee running the show.

New Zealand -
Try: Ma'a Nonu. Penalties: Piri Weepu (4). Drop goal: Aaron Cruden.
Australia - Penalty: James O' Connor. Drop goal: Quade Cooper.

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