All Blacks Rack Up 70 Points at Soldier Field Against USA

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IINovember 2, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:  Sonny Bill Williams of the All Blacks during the International Test Match between the United States of America and the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on November 1, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Phil Walter/Getty Images

It was a case of too skilful, too clinical and simply too good as the All Blacks beat the USA 74-6 in their historic match at Soldier Field in Chicago. The on-field result was to be expected, but the off-field result is one of huge value to the sport of rugby, promoting the game in front of a crowd of 61,500 to help grow the game in what could be a huge market.

The difference in ability between the world champions and the minnows was evident from the get-go. They were two teams of completely different levels.

While the USA did not lack for effort, they could not cope with the speed the All Blacks played the game at. They recycled the ball quickly and their strong support play, offloading game and ability to exploit gaps in the defence were too much for the USA to handle.

These gaps came as a result of the USA defensive line becoming disorganized, particularly out wide where they continually got lost with three or four men in black jerseys running in space.

This was the result of playing the game at such pace. There is less margin for error and when you are slightly out of position, good teams will capitalize by taking the gap. Against lesser teams they would have gotten away with it, but not against such a skilful, clinical outfit.

It was not all brilliant from the All Blacks, however. After taking a 43-6 lead to the break, they did not really fire in the second half.

Sometimes it is hard to carry on in such dominant form, but it was not as if they were not creating chances. They simply did not capitalize on the opportunities they did create. Too many dropped balls and loose passes saw an error-ridden second half, which let the USA off the hook on multiple occasions. 

The goal kicking was poor, too, particularly in the first half, where Aaron Cruden did not strike the ball well at all upon his return to the team. Some of his kicks were difficult ones, but he did not seem to be getting near landing them, which is an issue going forward. There were 10 points left out on the field purely from his poor kicking.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:  Israel Dagg of the All Blacks on the run during the International Test Match between the United States of America and the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on November 1, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Phil Walter/
Phil Walter/Getty Images

There were positives in the performance, though.

Sonny Bill Williams looked good in his return to international rugby, running good lines to make himself a handful for the defence. He combined well with Ryan Crotty, also making a return, who showed his offloading ability, was strong on defence and was dangerous running. Either of the men could have justifiably been awarded man of the match.

Dan Carter made his first appearance for the team in 2014, coming on in the second half, and lasted right through to the end of the game. He ran well, looking more lively than Cruden and distributing the ball well. 

It is worth remembering that this was very much a second-string All Black line-up and there were plenty of players looking to put their hand up for next week's Test against England. 

Carter will likely move back into the No. 10 jersey, while Kieran Read will hold onto the No. 8 position.

Other than these two, none of the others would be guarantees. Israel Dagg will likely get the nod at fullback, but even that is not a done-deal with Ben Smith set to come back and Julian Savea and Charles Piutau in good form. 

The outstanding midfield combination will be replaced by two of Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Malakai Fekitoa, while Aaron Smith will slot back into scrum-half.

Sam Cane was outstanding, too, although the evergreen Richie McCaw has arguably been the All Blacks' best this year and will reclaim his jersey, while Jerome Kaino will be brought back onto the blind side to add physicality.

Expect a complete overhaul of the tight five, too, although Jeremy Thrush certainly is not doing his reputation any harm and must now be considered the third best lock in New Zealand.

With their work in the USA done, it is onto Europe for the All Blacks, where they face England, Scotland and Wales in their last trip north before next year's World Cup.