Monday, December 03, 2012

A Black Day!

All Black fan Tim Cronin from RugbyBoots.netthrows up” some reasons for what happened at Twickers…

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Battling an illness that had swept through the team and feeling the effects of an arduous season, the All Blacks nonetheless fought bravely at Twickenham before eventually … just kidding. On behalf of all New Zealand rugby fans I admit we were thumped by the English. There are no excuses to be made, and we must take it on the chin.

In a match preview I wrote last week I said ‘I think New Zealand will win, but I won’t fall off my seat if there is an upset’. But when push came to shove I was stunned by the result.

Not because we lost to an opponent that has traditionally been incredibly tough for us to beat, but for two main reasons. Firstly, I’d thought all along that this would be by far the most challenging game for the ABs, but I thought if we did lose it would be a 12-9-type game, where England smothered us, played a superior tactical game, and drop-kicked their way to a tightly contested win. Obviously that’s not how it panned out.

Secondly, at 15-nil up early in the second half thanks in no small part to the inspired performance of young fly-half Owen Farrell, who certainly had his kicking boots on, the English were on fire. But then the All Blacks came screaming back in to contention with two converted tries. In the space of a handful of minutes the English saw their hard-fought lead evaporate, and their young side should really have capitulated. Throughout their tour, the All Blacks have put opponents away with similar bursts of intensity, but the English, rather than rolling over and whimpering their way to defeat at the hands of the World Champions, answered in kind, and a famous victory ensued.

It will be a bitter pill to swallow for the senior players in the All Black camp, who know all too well how long the summer break can be when it comes on the heels of a loss. But there is a process involved here, which I mentioned last week in my post about the Welsh. Firstly, one must accept the loss, then one must set about learning the lessons that loss threw up.

New Zealand were outplayed, purely and simply. Yes, they’ve had a long season, but England had also just battled with Australia and South Africa, so the physical demands throughout November were on par.

Was their arrogance in the black camp? Probably. I believe that core members of the squad like McCaw, Mealamu and Read bring an attitude which, while appearing like arrogance, is much more like the steely, hard-nosed attitude legendary All Blacks like Sean Fitzpatrick and Zinzan Brooke had – an unyielding drive to be better, to be the best, and the confidence that if they worked hard and pushed themselves to new limits every time they would prevail.

But for the young All Blacks I can see how a feeling of superiority could easily evolve. Not a sense that if they train as hard, run as fast and tackle as hard as they can possibly push themselves they will prevail, but a sense that by pulling on the famous black jersey and running on to the field beside Dan Carter and Richie McCaw that victory is a foregone conclusion.

Perhaps that is a positive the All Blacks can take out of their pounding at Twickenham – perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call to a group of emerging talent who had, until that point, enjoyed a dream run in the black machine.

But, unlike the Welsh, who proclaimed they were proud with the way they fought the week before, the All Blacks will be gutted. They will not only feel disappointed, but they will also feel embarrassed and humiliated. And so they should.

Their style of play doesn’t need to be revamped. A game plan which had previously swept aside all-comers didn’t become ineffective in the space of 80 minutes. But they do need to have a long hard look at themselves.

Losses like this eat away at All Blacks. You only have to rifle through a selection of autobiographies to see numerous examples from retired All Blacks about the motivation they gained from being beaten up in Paris, or the anger they felt as England performed a lap of honour in Manchester after a draw, and how those instances chewed away at them until they had the chance to seek revenge.

It will be a long wait for All Black fans, and will seem like an even longer one for McCaw and his men, but personally, my mouth is already watering in anticipation of the next New Zealand v England clash.

For now though, hats off to the Poms!

Tim Cronin is a Rugby fan and full time writer based in the rubble of the Canterbury Crusaders’ home town, Christchurch. Tim is a part of the Pukeko Sportsteam, where his role is watching, writing, and complaining about all things rugby.

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