Its All Black and Blue

Well Australia were finally found out today and came up second best to an awesome All Black side in todays RWC semi-final by 20 – 6. Quade Cooper started the game in the worst possible fashion on his “home” turf with his drop off being kicked out on the full – the Kiwis in the stands jeered for all they were worth. That set the tone for the first 15 minutes by which time New Zealand were 8 points to the good with a try for Ma’a Nonu, from a break by Israel Dagg and a penalty by Piri Weepu.

Nonu opens scoring for Kiwis 16.10.11

The game came to life mid way through the 1st half with a charge to the Kiwis try line by good Wallaby back play but they were held up by superb defense. At least, the neutral supporter knew that it wasn’t going to be a Black-wash and we had a contest between the current Tri Nations Champions and the long acknowledged best team in the world, the current All Blacks. O Connor landed a penalty before Cruden and Quade Cooper traded drop goals with Weepu wrapping up the half time score at 14 – 6 with another penalty, having missed a few kicks just left of the post.

Both teams were missing super star players – Dan Carter for the All Blacks and Kurtley Beale for the Wallabies – but as the game ebbed and flowed, their absence was regretted but wasn’t crucial to either team. Cruden, the 4th choice outhalf and snatched from heading off on a holiday to Florida, was competent and also confident enough to take a drop goal opportunity. Ashley Cooper at full back for Australia didn’t do anything wrong but was starved of ball as were his fellow backs by an impressive Kiwi pack both in the tight and loose.

Unlike the Wales v France game, there were no controversial decisions to affect the flow of the game and it was the battle of the two best 7’s in the world that exemplified the final result. Pocock was pinged for a few early infringements and it seemed to affect his game whereas his opposite number, the mercurial Mc Caw, led his team by example and was prominent throughout the match. The All Black pack proved to be the better combination of 8 forwards on the day, with their loose trio of Mc Caw, Kaino and Read dominant in all phases, ensuring a good supply of go forward ball for their team to rule the roost.

The second half was again well contested by both teams but the longer the game went on, the less likely Australia looked like getting in a killer blow to unsettle their New Zealand opponents. Keepu struck twice more, the second as a blood substitute for his replacement, Ellis, to bring up the final score 20 – 6. It was a tough physical encounter with some exciting phases of play but not the most entertaining of games.

Williams against Scotland in pool game RWC 2011
Jonah Lomu tackled by Shane Horgan

The only yellow card was for Sonny Bill Williams, a sort of modern day Jonah Luma man mountain, who walked after only a few minutes on the pitch for a shoulder charge into the bete noir of the Australian team, former Kiwi, Quade Cooper.

It now sets up a classic north-south final between France and New Zealand, replicating the first RWC Final in 1987, which the Kiwis won in attrocius weather conditions. France have had a terrible tournament – losing two pool matches, including against next weeks opponents and were lucky to get past a far better Welsh side in the semi-final. However, their Gallic flair is always just a hair’s breath away and if the inspired French flair team turns up, this could be an epic final. Rugby followers the world over want to see a game to remember for all the right reasons – yes, the All Blacks deserve to be Champions but they must prove that to all and sundry at Eden Park on Sunday 23rd October 2011 – only a week away now.
Allez Les Noires et Les Bleus – bonne chance les deux.
Just a quick thank you to John K Johnson, my first fan.

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