October 17, 2011
All Blacks heavy World Cup favourites
By RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency
New Zealand is poised to win the Rugby World Cup.
There is the matter of beating France in Auckland next Sunday, but if the All Blacks continue showing the dominance they displayed Sunday at Eden Park in their 20-6 win over Australia, the final could be a blowout.
This was a classic game between the Southern Hemisphere rivals. Comparing this game to the France-Wales semfinal on Saturday was like comparing a top-level English Premier League soccer match to an MLS game.
The defence was so tight on both sides that there was no open space to be found and no run by a player on either team exceeded 15 metres.
But even on those terms, New Zealand dominated. They won opposing lineouts. They turned over Australian rucks. They forced turnovers in open play. And their kicking game and their ability to receive kicks was the main difference in the game.
They pressured early on leading to a try by Ma’a Nonu just five minutes in. They could have won the match by much more if they hadn’t missed five penalty kicks in the match, including three in the first 20 minutes by Piri Weepu.
But the scrum half made his share too. A penalty midway through the half made it 8-0. Australian pressure resulted in a penalty kick by James O’Connor to make it 8-3.
The teams then traded drop goals. Good New Zealand pressure created space for Aaron Cruden to convert to make it 11-3 but then Quade Cooper responded to bring it to 11-6.
But that’s all the points Australia got as Weepu made three kicks over the final 45 minutes to complete the scoring. Australia’s late surges could not penetrate the All Blacks’ stingy defence.
The win was the first by New Zealand over Australia in a World Cup semifinal after two previous defeats.
“We realized that we had to be on the job for 80 minutes,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. “Every single man did their best out there and that’s what you have to do in knockout rugby.”
Eighty more minutes of work like they showed on Sunday, and the 24-year drought without the Webb Ellis Cup will certainly come to an end.