Brisbane proves to be 'All Blacks' 'banana skin'

JUSTIN MARSHALL
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012
Cory Jane
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HANDLING ISSUES: Cory Jane fails to hang on to a pass.

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OPINION: Sometimes you hate to be right, and this was definitely one of those occasions as the All Blacks had their winning streak snapped in Brisbane with a draw that would have felt like a loss in the aftermath.

I wondered beforehand if this could be a "banana skin" match for the All Blacks and, sure enough, it played out pretty much as I'd thought it might, right down to my theory that the Australians might not be good enough or experienced enough to close out victory.

I had a feeling it would be one of those tight test matches and, if the Wallabies could stay in touch on the scoreboard, and even get themselves ahead, they would gain some encouragement and confidence.

They put themselves in a position to win the test match, then they proceeded to go about losing it as best they could.

The All Blacks were very lucky they were able to haul in a nine-point deficit all on the back of Australia making errors and doing foolish things.

They didn't construct anything because they didn't have any ball and because of that weren't able to build pressure and points.

The All Blacks instead had to rely on the Australians giving them opportunities to score points - and Robbie Deans' men duly obliged.

The Wallabies let the All Blacks back in to the point they could even have lost and, when they reflect on this match, they will probably be kicking themselves for letting the victory get away from them.

Australia were the dominant team and had every opportunity to win.

But I always felt that if it got close, New Zealand had an edge because they had so much experience and nous.

Sure enough, Australia got themselves into a winning position yet lacked the personnel and ability to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

I don't think the All Blacks underestimated the Wallabies but they never got into the game early.

They were just feeding off turnovers and the odd error from Australia, but that doesn't give you ball in hand to establish a rhythm.

When they're playing well, the All Blacks construct seven-plus phases and put opponents under pressure. They hardly did that at all in this test.

At the end, the players sounded frustrated they couldn't get into the game and didn't have the ball to assert their game plan.

It was similar to what happened in the first half in South Africa, except there they were able to score the tries against the run of play to stay in the game.

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But that's two test matches in a row they've really struggled to get ball and implement the game plan.

Make no mistake, for the All Blacks this will feel like a loss.

The players would have been desperate to win for Keven Mealamu and for Steve Hansen, who's had a tough week with the death of his father, Des.

Plus, All Blacks love smashing records and take great pride in their achievements, and the fact they let that winning streak slip will be incredibly frustrating in the cold light of day.

Also, when an opponent is as dominant as the Wallabies were, a draw does feel like a loss.

But it would be unfair to let this result detract too much from the team's achievements this season. There are going to be games like that where it is hard work and you don't get enough ball.

They had a pretty full-on week, and it was hard not to admire the way Hansen dealt with it afterwards.

He was critical of the way they played and felt they hadn't played intelligently, and didn't get their hands on enough ball. He also felt there were too many unnecessary penalties given away.

But the positive was they performed well below par and still got away with a draw.

The defence was again extremely good. The Wallabies threw everything at them but never looked like scoring a try. While they might be having issues getting the attack going, the All Blacks' defence remains superb.

This team is capable of some special things, but the scary thing for the rest of the world is they're not there yet. They're still working at it.

I'm not sure that too much changes now either, just because the streak is over.

The All Blacks want to win every test match they play, and nothing changes on that front. It's what makes New Zealand rugby so powerful.

- Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback

- Fairfax Media

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