Rugby World Cup 2011: Awesome All Blacks Suffocate Australia En Route to Final
The All Blacks have booked their place in the Rugby World Cup Final after a dominant display against the Wallabies, running out winners 20-6.
It was a win that came off the back of a dominant forward pack and unrelenting defence that withstood everything thrown at them.
Never did the Australians look like breaking the wall of black that was the All Blacks defensive line; no matter how close they got or how dangerous they looked, there was always someone there to make the tackle.
This was perhaps best summed up midway through the first half, when Digby Ioane had seemingly broken through and only had to fall over the line, before Jerome Kaino came from nowhere to pick up Ioane and dump him back in the field of play.
It's commitment like that that wins World Cups, and shows just how much this All Blacks team wants it, contrary to four years ago where they seemed to be playing a half-paced game.
On the contrary, Australia never looked like winning, apparently clueless on how to break the defence in front of them.
And it went this way right from the kickoff for the Wallabies when Quade Cooper put the ball out on the full, gifting the All Blacks a scrum on halfway. This would eventually lead to the only try in the game where an outstanding break and pass in from Israel Dagg allowed Ma'a Nonu to cross.
But they didn't let their foot off the throttle, continually applying pressure to the Wallabies. And this was how it went for the duration, as the All Blacks suffocated the Wallabies on their way to a 14-point victory.
The All Blacks' back three were outstanding, fielding high ball after high ball, negating the Wallabies' kick-and-chase tactic to the point where Australia were just kicking the ball back to the All Blacks to run back at them. Cory Jane in particular was brilliant in this department and was one of the main reasons why he was awarded the man of the match.
While it's hard to single out any one individual, special mention must go to first five-eighth, Aaron Cruden. Pre-tournament, Cruden was only the All Blacks third choice No. 10, but injuries to Daniel Carter and Colin Slade saw Cruden called into the team and thrown straight in the deep end to start the semifinal.
Many questioned his ability to run the All Blacks in the same way Carter has done, particularly overseas fans predicting it may be their downfall.
But he was brilliant. Never did he look rattled. He was dangerous running, kicked well, gave his backline good ball and tackled courageously. What else could you want from a first five-eighth?
In contrast the Wallabies No. 10, Quade Cooper was awful once again. Even the most one-eyed Australian would surely have to admit that Cooper isn't up to it at test-match level after that performance, which was one of the main reasons behind the Australian loss. His poor tackling ability is well-known and since Hong Kong last year, teams have opted to hide him at fullback.
But there was no hiding from this All Black side, as Cruden and Dagg continually sent bombs flying his way, and Cooper didn't handle it at all well.
The other area where the All Blacks gained dominance was the breakdown, where they constantly pushed the Wallabies off their own ball. The scrums also were dominant, with the All Blacks pack all over an Australian pack that had no answers.
The All Blacks will now move on to play France in the Final, where revenge will be the one word on the minds of all New Zealanders. Many will cite history as a reason France could get up. But if last night was anything to go by, this All Blacks side just wants it too much.
Losses in 1999 and 2007 came from All Black teams who seemed to think that if they just turned up, it would happen. But this side is different and they will enter the Final looking to not only win, but to win convincingly and gain redemption.
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