Okay, Australia were good. They were clearly better than New Zealand. But the fawning over them seems to be failing to take into account one crucial factor – New Zealand were pants. I said in my preview that they needed direction but they completely failed to get it from Benji Marshall and Thomas Leuluai. Australia were merely extremely efficient, but that was all they needed to be to tear apart the Kiwis.
The ‘roos obviously had many positives to take from this game. They won handsomely against the side who have been their nearest challengers in the past few seasons, and they did so in a dominating fashion. The much vanted centre pairing of Israel Folau and Greg Inglis both had good games and fended off nearly every attempted tackle on them, and Folau finished with two tries. In particular they were always threatening down the flanks and were very good at switching play from one side to the other. They threatened to look awesome, but merely came across as really good. In particular they had a habit of dropping the ball as they looked to score, something that will probably be eliminated from their game as they develop cohesion. Also, they will not be happy that the two times the Kiwis really pressured them, it resulted in a walk-in try and a wrongly-disallowed try. ‘Efficient’ is the word to describe their performance; they weren’t flawless by any means, but they did more than enough to win and can take heart from their performance.
This is more than the Kiwis can take. For a side who have a reputation as brutal hitters, there was something lacking in the forward play of New Zealand. They gave away too many penalties and tried too many cheap shots. Even so, the Aussies completely dominated them in the tackle and the Kiwis barely had any momentum all night. Leuluai and Marshall were fairly anonymous, which was really frustrating because the few times Marshall took on the ‘roos on their try-line coincided with the few times the Kiwis looked threatening. They really need to buck up their ideas, and fast. They are lucky they didn’t play Papua New Guinea this weekend, because the Kumuls looked far more impressive in defeat than the Kiwis did. Adrain Lam will seriously be thinking about beating them next Saturday, and if the Kiwis play like that again then it’s a very real possibility.
As a final whine, what the hell was the video ref playing at disallowing Matai’s try at the end? Slide tackles from the full-back are dangerous at the best of times, never mind the fact that it clearly stripped the ball from Matai as he was scoring. Granted, it didn’t affect the result, and the try would have been more than the Kiwis deserved, but it sets a worrying prescedent as there is ample room for one of these challenges to cause serious harm. For the video referee to claim that the foot was not involved in Matai knocking the ball on was also just plain stupid. I don’t like to bag on refs, but it was obvious to anyone with basic vision that the foot knocked out the ball. It was the most questionable thing to come out of a night which didn’t really answer all that much.