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Monday December 1, 2008
LONDON: In the build-up to New Zealand’s 32-6 win here at Twickenham, which saw the All Blacks secure a third grand slam over the four home nations, England had insisted they would ignore their opponents “aura”.
But what they couldn’t ignore, and certainly couldn’t overcome on Saturday, was the All Blacks’ defence as New Zealand recorded their biggest winning margin at Twickenham.
World Cup finalists England looked as if they were about to score the game’s first try when No 8 Nick Easter burst clear early in the second-half.
However, an ankle-tap by full-back Mils Muliaina brought Easter down when a converted score would have given England a 13-12 lead.
As it was the All Blacks, who beat Australia in Hong Kong before arriving in Europe, defeated Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on successive weekends without conceding a try.
“I think that indicates the attitude and the heart of the team, defence,” said New Zealand captain Richie McCaw. “It’s what wins games.”
All Blacks coach Graham Henry, controversially retained in his post after last year’s World Cup quarter-final loss to France, said Muliaina’s tackle summed up a 2008 which saw New Zealand win 13 out of 15 Tests.
“It was a try for all money but the guys scrambled well and finished up turning the ball over and getting out of trouble.”
It was an attitude that would have been appreciated by Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest, as McCaw became the first captain to lift the trophy named after the New Zealand mountaineering great which will now be presented after all Anglo-All Black clashes.
New Zealand were not at their best in a scrappy first-half but ran in three tries after the break, their attacking skill allied to their match fitness once again proving too much for their opponents.
The All Blacks are often damned with the faint praise of “doing the basics” better than any other side, which certainly does scant justice to a year when they’ve won won the Tri-Nations and a third Grand Slam to go with those of their 1978 and 2005 predecessors.
“This result epitomises what we’ve been doing all year,” said former Wales coach Henry. — AFP
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