BLACK ON TOP OF THE WORLD   6 Sep 2005

by Ellie van Baaren

ALL BLACKS 34 WALLABIES 24

Well, we did it. I’m saying we because we won of course, if we’d lost I would’ve followed tradition and said "they lost it". But seriously. It is good to see the Tri-Nations trophy back where it belongs – alongside the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand Rugby’s trophy cabinet.

The first 20 minutes were breathtaking. Just the mere fact the tries seemed to coming so easily was fantastic. But one thing we Kiwis know is that you can never bet an Aussie will be out for the count. Even at 20-0 down after two Doug Howlett specials – one courtesy of a funny old penalty tap from Ali Williams – and one try to Richie McCaw, the Wallabies were not about to lie down. Four unanswered tries later and Australia were only one point adrift and the All Blacks were looking a tad tired and bereft.

However, as the experts always say when it comes to crunch time it’s the team that keeps its composure that wins. And on Saturday that team was the All Blacks. Youngster Luke McAlister kept his cool to slot two penalties and then Howlett’s third try sealed the deal.

Howlett just seemed to be everywhere during the game. After being dropped for the earlier Tri Nations games then on as a reserve for the game against the Springboks, Howlett took this chance and ran with it – all the way to the touchline. The high point was the audacious kick he received from lock Williams after a penalty right on the Wallabies’ line. The irony being Williams had already tried to tap it quickly and had been told to wait by the referee. When the kick went up, even coach Graham Henry was getting ready to swear vociferously before they saw Howlett standing under the ball, over the line, waiting for what must have been the easiest try of his career.

But the match wasn’t all good news.

Much of the match was a triumph for the Kiwi team. The lineout was under control and the scrum was strong. For the first 20 minutes possession and territory were up around the 90 per cent mark. But the game also showed weaknesses.

The All Blacks have yet to produce a full 80-minute performance. In the first two matches they were slow to start, in the second two they let the opposition back into the game. That will be a concern to the coaching staff and the players themselves. However, there is nothing wrong with basking for a little while in the glory of their deserved win.

Spare a little thought for Wallabies captain George Gregan who equalled the record for 114 appearances for his country. There is speculation it may be the last time we will see the Aussie veteran at Eden Park. He may be an Aussie but we’ll miss being able to fling insults at him.

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