Rugby: Sonny Bill Williams Stars as All Blacks Destroy Scotland
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The most talked about man in New Zealand rugby this year, Sonny Bill Williams, was outstanding this morning as the All Blacks scored seven tries to none in a 49-3 victory over Scotland, at Murrayfield.
Both teams looked to move the ball, but it was the All Blacks who were able to make the most of their opportunities, and proved to be simply too good for a Scottish team who looked out of it's depth.
After conceding an early penalty, the All Blacks showed that they meant business as Sonny Bill Williams delivered one of his signature offload passes to put Hosea Gear into a gap 20 metres out from the line to touch down for their first try.
They crossed again two minutes later after a turnover by Williams saw an overlap down the blindside which Dan Carter finished off, touching down under the posts for the All Blacks second try.
Two more tries to Mils Muliaina and Hosea Gear took the score to 28-3 at the break, and put the All Blacks in the dominant position.
Nine minutes into the second half, Sonny Bill Williams once again showed his brilliance with a superb backhand offload to Mils Muliaina on the outside, who had a clear run into the line, taking the score to 35-3.
It was clear that the coaches thought that the game was safe at this point as they began to ring in the changes, giving their whole bench a good run except for Ma'a Nonu.
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The game began to disintegrate after this as the All Blacks became loose and struggled to execute as they had done in the first half. Nevertheless, they were still able to notch up another two tries after finding gaps in the Scottish defence to take them to an easy 49-3 win.
It was a much better performance from an All Black team that has struggled to maintain their dominance they held after the Tri-Nations. Although, it must be said that it was against a less than impressive Scotland side who never looked capable of toppling their opponent, despite all the pre-match hype.
Sonny Bill Williams showed everyone exactly why he is in the team, delivering a "man of the match" performance, displaying an array of skills from his offload, brilliant passing as well as the ability to effect turnovers at the break down.
His defence was also much better this week as he stayed in the line much better and looked a lot more comfortable after having got his test debut last week.
His midfield partner Conrad Smith was his usual brilliant self once again. His defence remains world-class as he made some must-make tackles, while missing none.
The question now is: what combination of Smith, Williams and Ma'a Nonu will the selectors opt to go for when the All Blacks have to put out their top team? As all would surely walk into any other team around the world.
Hosea Gear is another player who is making the most of his opportunity in a black jersey after having to work hard to get his recall. He was devastating with ball in hand, scoring two tries and looking dangerous whenever he ran. His wing partner, Isaia Toeava, still looks to be getting back into the game after a long injury break, but delivered a passable performance.
Mils Muliaina was once again outstanding from the back in his record-equalling match for most All Black test caps (92), while Daniel Carter was consistent, proving to be radar accurate with the boot.
The much criticised Stephen Donald turned in a much better performance once introduced 15 minutes into the second half. Despite one wonky kick, Donald was strong on defence and ran with aggression, setting up the final try of the match. This will be of enormous confidence to Donald, who has been under enormous pressure to perform and earn the respect of the public.
Up front they gave away too many penalties to gain any real dominance, but were able to set a good enough platform for the backs to work with.
Richie McCaw gave another good performance in what was also his 92nd test cap. However, he got himself into trouble a few times, giving away some needless penalties and would be partly the reason he was substituted for Daniel Braid mid way through the second half.
Kieran Read was also good, carrying the ball well and doing the work of two men, while Liam Messam was solid in his All Blacks recall.
Both front rows struggled in the scrums, hence the number of resets, but it was the All Blacks who were able to gain the upper hand thanks to a strong game from Owen Franks coupled with a good debut from Hika Elliot.
It was clear that Scotland had the intent to play a fast paced, positive game, but they lacked the ability to carry it out against an unbreakable All Black defence. At times it seemed as though they were throwing the ball around with no real purpose and were unable to make any breaks, simply running straight at defenders, rather than into holes.
In hindsight, they would have been better to take the game to the All Blacks up front as they would have had more chance of beating them there than out wide, where the All Blacks have been so good this year. While the plan to move the ball has proved to be most effective under the new law interpretations, you still need to have the skill and flair to be able to operate this game plan, and Scotland lacked both.
The All Blacks will now move on to Dublin where they will take on Ireland in the third match of their Grand Slam challenge, while Scotland will attempt to topple a Springbok side who have also won the two opening games of their own Grand Slam challenge.
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