Randell: All Blacks running away from the pack

Last updated 05:00 25/08/2013
Richie McCaw
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SAFE HANDS: All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds the Bledisloe Cup aloft after defeating the Wallabies 27-16.

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The scoreline didn't do the All Blacks justice as they retained the Bledisloe Cup against the Wallabies in Wellington last night.

OPINION: This was a pretty comprehensive victory and reflected how far the All Blacks have advanced their game.

The Wallabies, even with a new coach, seem to be playing a game the All Blacks were using a year or two ago, based around relentless phase play.

Steve Hansen's side plays at a much faster pace than that now. It looks like everyone is going to be in catch-up mode again.

The All Blacks also exposed Australia's problems under the high ball with accurate kicking backed up by strong chasing.

When you look at the other end of the park, there's so much assurance that comes with All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg. He takes everything that's fired at him and with his massive boot he usually returns it with interest.

I like the way the back three work together and in Ben Smith and Julian Savea we have a combination in the All Blacks that reminds me of Jeff Wilson and Jonah Lomu.

I also like the way Steven Luatua has stepped up to this level. He has looked right at home over the last two tests in the demanding No 6 jersey.

Tom Taylor will be happy with his debut at first-five and the All Blacks' ability to settle in their new talent speaks volumes about the culture in this side.

This has been a good start to the Rugby Championship by the All Blacks. They've put the beloved Bledisloe Cup back in the cupboard and you suspect things are only going to get better.

Well done to Tony Woodcock on his century of tests - that's a heck of an achievement coming from someone who operates in the hurly-burly of the front row.

WELL done Otago and particularly well done Tony Brown for their stunning Ranfurly Shield success.

I don't know that there's any union with more shield heartache than Otago and to finally break that 57-year pain is a wonderful achievement.

I witnessed first-hand a couple of nightmares. I was on the bench in 1994 when David Latta gave away the last-gasp penalty that Andrew Mehrtens kicked to save Canterbury 22-20. And I was on the field for a three-point failed challenge against Canterbury towards the end of my career.

Brownie also knows first-hand the pain of a close defeat when the Log is on the line. I think he needs a fair bit of credit for the effort that went into getting the shield back to Dunedin for the first time since 1956.

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Otago are a proud union that was just about in tatters last year, as good as bankrupt. Tony took up the challenge of coaching them and he decided to pretty much instil a "local" approach. He also brought back some good old-fashioned values.

They produced a heartening season last year and this season has started with a good win over Bay of Plenty and now a stunning upset of Waikato to lift the Log.

You could see what this meant to the team when the final whistle went.

Brownie reckoned his phone went crazy with texts and the same happened to mine. This was a challenge that almost went unrecognised with it's buildup, but will long be remembered.

It will be a huge week in Dunedin now, heading into the first defence against Hawke's Bay.

I've got a foot in both camps for Sunday's match and I'll certainly be heading south for what's going to be a huge match and an enormous occasion.

It's great the shield has gone into what is now the second-tier of our provincial championship. It's going to add some spice to it and I think we might see it move around a fair bit.

Not that Brownie and his boys will be giving anything away easy. The passion they showed with the challenge now has to be transferred into defending the famous trophy. I don't think that's going to be a problem.

It's a matter of what the Magpies can bring to the table on Sunday. They are another proud old union who haven't had their hands on the shield since their glorious run in the 1960s.

This is the sort of stuff that makes our provincial championship so absorbing.

Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain

- Sunday News


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