All Blacks all class as they defeat Argentina 54-15 to secure the first Rugby Championship - By Mark Ella

Three weeks ago the All Blacks had to battle to defeat a gutsy Pumas side in Wellington 21-5 but last weekend they showed all their class with a superb effort at Stadia Ciudad de La Plata winning 54-14 in front of 53,000 crazy Argentinians. The Pumas have for much of this tournament based their game around a solid defensive line but up against the reigning RWC champions they simply had no answer to the power and precision of the All Blacks. Even though the Pumas opened the scoring after seven minutes into the game when fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino burst through the All Blacks defence from fifty metres out to send halfback Martin Landajo over in the right corner the All Blacks quickly made their presence known. With fifteen minutes into the match trailing the Pumas 5-0, Ma’a Nonu found a gap close to the ruck darting through the hole to put No.9 Aaron Smith under the posts and give New Zealand a lead this would never relinquish. The return of Daniel Carter from a calf injury gave the All Blacks more confidence and the Crusaders No.10 had an outstanding game directing his talented three-quarters around the field. The All Blacks second try showed all their skill when their No.8 Kieran Read finished off a superb set play from their backline to send a one handed off load to Cory Jane to score the first of his three tries in the left corner. Both teams contributed to high tempo match but the All Blacks went on to secure a bonus point at half time with two more first half tries to Julian Savea with the All Blacks in one of their moods which unfortunately for the Pumas had no control over. The score at half time was 32-8 to the All Blacks and whilst the Pumas never gave up the game was well and truly out of their control. Having played against the All Blacks eleven times in my career the one thing I can state is that they never stop playing the game until the referee blows the final whistle and with that in mind the second half was always going to be a challenge for the local side. The second half started just like the first half with Argentina getting the momentum early on when live wire winger Gonzalo Camacho scored an excellent try in the 47th minute, his 5th in Test rugby to give some remote hope to the Pumas. When No.10 Juan Martin Hernandez converted Camacho’s try to bring the score to 32-15 it was the last time that the Pumas would post points in the match. Just ten minutes into the second half Cory Jane finished off another excellent play by the All Blacks with a rampaging Savea setting up his winger team-mate to score in the left corner. Rather than take the foot off the accelerator the All Blacks were still full of running even when coach Steve Hansen replaced Carter and captain Ritchie McCaw mid-way through the second half. Replacement fly half Aaron Cruden glided through a gap on his first touch of the football to put Nonu under the posts to ensure that the All Blacks would leave Argentina with the inaugural Rugby Championship trophy. Cory Jane wasn’t finished yet when he intercepted a wayward Pumas pass to race fifty metres to score his third try for the day and give the All Blacks their most convincing win of the Championship. The Pumas to their credit never stopped trying throwing the ball from one side of the field to the other. What didn’t help them was that in doing so they started to drip across the field rather than run direct at the All Blacks whose defence was intimidating. The Pumas should hold their heads up high for their passion and commitment in playing against the three strongest teams in world rugby. They have one more opportunity at home in Rosario next weekend against the injury depleted Wallabies who are ripe for the taking if they can hold their composure and stick to the what they have been doing throughout this tournament. Mark Ella


Too many wasted opportunities by the Springboks give victory to the All Blacks 21-11. by Mark Ella

The Springboks had a perfect opportunity to get back at the All Blacks on the weekend after a disappointing season so far drawing with the Pumas 16-16 in Mendoza and losing to the Wallabies 26-19 in Perth a couple of weeks ago. Before the match All Blacks coach Steve Hansen announced that exciting half back Aaron Smith had been dropped from the starting team after breaking team curfews following their scrappy win over the Pumas last weekend in Wellington with Piri Weepu taking over his position.It was only fitting that this match was played in Dunedin where it all started in 1921 for both proud rugby nations who first played against each other and 83 Test matches later the intensity and passion is still there.The Springboks had their best chance ever to take the lead after only four minutes of play but a wayward pass which went behind Bryan Habana’s head with the line wide open was a sign of what was to follow.Morne Steyn put scored the first points of the match in the 17th minute when he kicked a penalty goal to give the Springboks the lead 3-0 but the normally reliant sharp shooter kicked poorly throughout the match that was there for the taking.Against New Zealand you simply cannot afford to miss major opportunities and the Springboks will rue this match as one that got away.The All Blacks scored the first and only try in the first half in the 20th minute courtesy of a fabulous counter-attack off a deep Springboks kick.All Blacks full back Israel Dagg was the scorer after featuring four times in the movement, through two quite brilliant off-loads by Sam Whitelock and then Kieran Read who created the opportunity for the full back to race clear to the try line from thirty metres out.Poor kicking from Steyn who missed three penalty attempts should have kept the Springbok in the game and quite possibly ahead at half time but instead the Kiwi’s went into the break leading 5-3 in a close contest.Hansen didn’t waste any time in bringing on Smith who replaced Weepu for the second half but it was the Springboks who were quick to set the tone when their flying winger Bryan Habana did it all himself when in the 43rd minute took a close pass from the line-out to chipp over the top of Dagg before regathering to put the South Africans in the led 8-3.Eight minutes later All Blacks No.10 Aaron Cruden even the score 8 all when his kicked a penalty goal with the game swinging either way.But Smith stole the show when in the 59th minute he spotted big Flip van der Merve in front of him, slipped around him with ease and had the skill and the gas to leave the cover defense for dead to break the deadlock which was converted by Cruden to stretch the lead 15-8.When Boks replacement prop Dean Greyling was sin-binned soon after for a cheap shot on Ritchie McCaw at a ruck, it was always going to be a long haul back for the South Africans.They briefly threatened when a Johan Goosen penalty got them back to within four, but two Cruden penalties secured victory for the All Blacks that was every bit hard earned as it looked.The South Africans looked as if they didn’t have a clear strategy and kicked far too much in general play which made their job so much harder against the best team in world rugby.Steyn missed his only conversion attempt, kicked one out his of four penalty attempts but his namesake Francois Steyn missed his two long range penalty attempts with Johan Goosen also kicking one from two which was inadequate at this level.All Blacks skipper Ritchie McCaw who ended the match hobbling badly was huge for the New Zealanders demonstrating all his qualities in his 110th Test appearance.Luke Romano had another impressive outing in the black jersey up front while Israel Dagg, Corey Jane and Smith off the bench all showed their class when clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.The All Blacks will soon be crowned champions in the inaugural Rugby Championship with only two more rounds to go and they are deserving victors because they are consistent and play positive rugby which excites fans from around the rugby world.Mark Ella  


Four Nations – Ordinaria amministrazione All Blacks. A Dunedin battuti gli Springbocks. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Vince ancora la Nuova Zelanda versione “siamo i migliori del mondo e lo sappiamo. Ma non chiedeteci, ogni volta, di fare rugby dell’altro mondo” contro un buon Sud Africa nella quarta giornata di Championship a Dunedin e mette una grossa (grossissima) ipoteca sul successo final nella competizione australe. Partita di buoni contenuti e giocata a intensità elevata, con i padroni di casa in maglia nera (ancora senza Carter) che costruiscono il successo nel primo tempo per poi consolidarne le proporzioni nella ripresa. Due (Dagg e Aaron Smith) a uno (Habana) il conto delle mete. Il resto dai piedi di Cruden e del’acoppiata Goosen-M. Steyn. Nuova Zelanda – Sud Africa 21 - 11Marcatori: 17′ cp. M.Steyn, 18′ m. Dagg, 47′ m. Habana, 51′ cp. Cruden, 59′ m. Aaron.Smith tr. Cruden, 69′ cp. Goosen, 74′ cp. Cruden, 80′ cp. CrudenCartellini gialli: 63′ GreylingArbitro: G. Clancy (Irlanda) Giorgio Sbrocco


Four Nations – Piri Weepu numero 9 AB contro gli Springbocks a Dunedin. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Piri Weepu (rientrato, o sul punto di farlo, nel peso forma pre  Mondiale) guiderà la mischia degl All Blacks nel match di sabato a Duinedin contro gli Springbocks sudafricani. Invariato il resto della linea arretrata e della mediana (Cruden all'apertura al posto dell'indisponibile Carter). Tre vfacce nuove, invece, nel pacchetto di mischia:  Sam Whitelock in seconda linea,  Liam Messam flanker sul lato chiuso  e  Andrew Hore tallonatore. Nuova Zelanda15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (cap.), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony WoodcockIn panchina: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison . Giorgio Sbrocco 

Four Nations – Hansen (AB): “Argentina grande squadra. La loro difesa fra le migliori al mondo”. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Riconoscimento (dovuto) da parte del ct della Nuova Zelanda Steve Hansen, all'Argentina sconfitta (21-5) +sabato a Wellington dagli All Blacks. Questa la sua analisi della partita vinta (con grande fatica) dai suoi nel terzo turno del torneo australe: “Nel primo tempo abbiamo provato a giocare in funzione delle condizioni meteo (pioggia e vento, ndr) . Abbiamo insistito sulla circolazione anche quando, in effetti, sarebbe stato più sensato lavorare sul possesso per garantirci un margine di sicurezza maggiore. Ma occorre ammettere che l'intensità del gioco dell'Argentina ci ha messo parecchio in difficoltà”. Cosa che, detta dal tecnico della squadra più forte del mondo, suona come una prestigiosa promozione sul campo per gli  uomini di Santiago Phelan al loro primo anno nella competizione. Ma sul futuro dei Pumas Hansen non ha dubbi: “Non possono che migliorare. E comunque il loro livello è già buono. La loro organizzazione difensiva è una delle migliori del mondo”.Giorgio Sbrocco


All Blacks domination of Super Championship continues with victory over Argentina 21-5 By Mark Ella

With former RWC winning coach Sir Graham Henry engaged by Argentina as an advisor it was always going to be an apprehensive All Blacks side who took on the Pumas in Wellington on the weekend. The Pumas had some reason to be confident going into the match after their fantastic draw against the Springboks in Mendoza two weeks ago 16-16 but the weather wasn’t too kind to them. Both teams took the field in driving rain which would have suited the home team who play wet weather rugby on a regular basis but as expected from this Pumas side, they didn’t fail to cause the All Blacks grief. In fact they scored the first try of the match when veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero got the football over the line after some bruising clashed between both sides. The All Blacks managed to keep in the game when Aaron Cruden, a late replacement for the injured Daniel Carter, landed penalties in the 9th and 24th minutes with the All Blacks again trying far too hard resulting in a large number of unforced errors. The their credit the Pumas defense made it hard to the All Blacks to build too much continuity with both sides pounding each other in atrocious conditions in what was more of an arm wrestle than a game of rugby. The Argentinians like to play this type of rugby which was confirmed to close quarters due to the elements and they match the All Blacks blow for blow in what was an absorbing contest between two very passionate teams. Thankfully the second half was more favourable for rugby wind the wind and rain abating but not before it caused havoc when the winds peaked at 160km/hr in Wellington which tore roofs off houses and uprooted trees and caused the power cut which plunged Wellington Stadium into darkness for close to 30 minutes. After fifty one minutes into the match Cruden put the All Blacks further in front 9-5 with another penalty but the game changed for the worse when Pumas flanker Julio Farias Cabellos was sinbinned in the 59th minute by French referee Romain Poite for deliberately knocking down the ball from a pass from Corey Jane. The All Blacks didn’t waste this advantage when centre Conrad Smith drew two defenders before offloading to Ma’a Nomu who unselfishly put Julian Savea over in the left hand corner to stretch the All Blacks lead out to 14-5. Victory for the All Blacks was sealed with nine minutes left on the clock when Jane was the recipient of great long pass from Cruden after an excellent set piece from the All Blacks three-quarters to put the flying winger in the right corner. The conversion by Cruden from the sideline was successful to give the All Blacks a much deserved victory 21-5 to keep their Rugby Championship in tact with the only team to have an unbeaten record. Their success against Pumas was the All Blacks 13th straight Test win and they remain unbeaten against Argentina having won all fifteen previous Test matches which is nothing to be ashamed of. The Pumas against played with a great deal of passion and commitment and if they can contain the Wallabies backline their forwards will more than challenge the Wallabies forward by their no thrills and in your face approach. The All Blacks continue to set the standard for International rugby but it must to frustrating for coach Steve Hansen to watch his players strive so hard to impress him but at the same time make a number of elementary mistakes. There are times in Test rugby when holding onto possession is more important than trying fifty fifty plays that almost always don’t come off with the opposition regaining the football. If they would have had a more conservative approach against the Wallabies they come have put forty points on the scoreboard if not for their errors. But if they get it right they will be unstoppable with the next challenger being the Springboks in Dunedin who are themselves struggling to remain in the game and once again their game may be All Black! Mark Ella


Four Nations – All Blacks senza Carter e con cinque novità contro i Pumas a Wellington. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Nuova Zelanda in versione restyled (o è semplice e programmato turnover?) quella che il ct Hansen ha annunciato in previsione della sfida di Wellington contro l’Argentina. Sei gli assenti rispetto alla formazione che ha regolato con una certa facilità la pratica –Australia nelle prime due giornate del torneo. A parte Sonny Bill Williams che è tornato “a lavorare” in Giappone per scadenza del permesso, non saranno in campo: Hosea Gear, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Wyatt Crockett e, per la serie “le disgrazie non vengono mai da sole”, anche il sommo Dan Carter vedrà la partita dalla tribuna. Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Victor Vito, Brodie Retallick, Tony Woodcock e Aaron Cruden che giocherà all’apertura. Ma tante facce nuove contro una squadra come i Pumas argentini, capace di mettere in difficoltà chiunque, non sembrano il modo migliore di iniziare un doppio confronto potenzialmente molto complciato. NUOVA ZELANDA 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (cap), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.In panchina: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Ben Smith.Giorgio Sbrocco


Four Nations – Hernadez aperture e Leguizamon 7 nei Pumas anti AB. By Giorgio Sbrocco

 Torna Juan Martin Hernandez all’apertura e Leguizamon sostituisce Galindo nel ruolo di flanker sul lato aperto nella formazione dell’Argentina comunicata dal ct Santiago Phelan in vista della sfida con gli All Blacks in programma sabato a Wellington, valida per il terzo turno di Championship-Four Nations. In attesa di conoscere domani la composizione della panchina, risultano confermati i 13/15 della squadra che a Mendoza ha pareggiato (16-16) con il Sud Africa.Argentina: 15 Martin Rodriguez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (c), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero. Giorgio Sbrocco

Four Nations – All Blacks: SBW torna a Ota. Rientra Conrad Smith. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Finito il permesso concessogli  dai dirigenti del club giapponese che lo sta profumatamente pagando, il talentuoso centro Sonny Bill Williams ha lasciato la compagnia degli All Blacks  con cui ha disputato e vinto il doppio confronto con l’Australia (valido anche per la Bledisloe cup), per tornare a Ōta city (prefettura di Gunma) e raggiungere i  Wild Knights, suoi nuovi compagni di avventura nella lega nipponica. Al suo posto è tornato a disposizione di coach Henson il titolare Conrad Smith, che farà coppia con Ma'a Nonu sabato contro i Pumas. La conferma è venuta dal tecnico della liena arretratata dei tuttoneri Ian Forster che ha definito Smith “un giocatore di grande qualità. Secondo me il miglior giocatore neozelandese dell’ultima edizione del Super Rugby”.Giorgio Sbrocco


Four Nations – Hansen (AB) “difende” Deans. “Non è un cattivo allenatore”. By Giorgio Sbrocco

Dopo anni di silenzio e di profilo basso all’ombra del (suo) connazionale, maestro e mentore, Steve Hansen parla e interviene (quasi) in soccorso del suo capo ai tempi dei Crusaders. L’attuale ct degli All Blacks, ai microfoni di una radio neozelandese, ha preso le difese di Robbie Deans, ct sotto processo dell’Australia dopo il 22-0 inflitto ai Wallabies all’Eden Park nella seconda giornata del Championship australe. Un risultato storico, soprattutto per lo zero nella casella dei punti segnati dagli australiani. Circostanza che non si verificava esattamente da mezzo secolo. Forse memore della definizione che di lui diede lo stesso Deans alla vigilia del torneo (“Steve? Un buon pescatore”), la difesa non è andata oltre qualche parole di (pelosa?) circostanza. Ma la dichiarazione ha fatto giustamente il giro del mondo. “Robbie (Deans, ndr) non è un cattivo allenatore. Non è che se uno perde  due partite contro gli All Blacks diventa un allenatore scadente. Quando era ai Crusaders Robbie ha stabilito un sacco di record. Certo, ora sta pagando molto caro queste due sconfitte”. E sulla (pesantissima) campagna di stampa in corso in Australia contro il tecnico neozelandese: “Tutti dovrebbero darsi una calmata e provare a capire, invece di puntare il dito sull’allenatore”. Un giudizio anche sui giocatori australiani: “In campo avevano tutti la stessa espressione, erano confusi, non sapevano cosa fare. La situazione è delicata, perché quando non si hanno soluzioni è impossibile progredire”. Difficilmente la difesa di Henson cambierà il corso delle cose. Non tanto e non solo perché, a ben vedere, si tratta di poco più che di un intervento d’ufficio. Ma perché l’opinione pubblica australiana (e la federazione) hanno maturato la convinzione che sia Deans (uno straniero!) il responsabile dei rovesci della squadra. Certo, dovesse battere il Sud Africa alla ripresa delle ostilità (8 settembre), forse otterrebbe una… dilazione della pena. Nulla di più. Dovesse perdere, la sua avventura fra i canguri potrebbe dirsi definitivamente finita.Giorgio Sbrocco

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