Twickenham Stadium is easily one of the most iconic sporting grounds in the world. To see it packed to the rafters with screaming sports fans is a thing of beauty. To then have those fans burst into song, the English sporting anthem “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” ringing out late in the All Blacks v England game…well it certainly made my eyes water. It’s a bit like hearing the Liverpool fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, there’s something spiritual about the way the song draws the fans together.
That mutual support of the English fans would have been needed as well. I think back to my very first article for Last Word on Sports. The Wallabies coach indicated he believed the All Blacks could be beaten. I agreed with him. I was wrong. Man was I wrong. I have watched the All Blacks start strong and just get better this season. The team has absorbed injury issues, losing Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Richie McCaw, Tom Taylor, Liam Messam, Corey Jane, and yet the All Blacks just kept winning.
They took apart the Wallabies. They demolished the Argentinians. Yes there was controversy of the Springboks victory, it can not be denied though the All Blacks have dominated this season. With one game left to play, against Ireland at the hallowed grounds of Lansdowne Road, it looks unlikely anyone is going to derail the All Blacks juggernaut. I know that eventually someone has to defeat the All Blacks, it’s just not possible for a winning streak to last forever, but the game I saw last night tells me it’s not looking to be anytime soon.
The depth of game play. The ability for Steve Hansen to rotate on great players like my often mention Steven Luatua. The fact that behind Dan Carter – who celebrated his 100th test last night, the fifth All Black to do so – Is Aaron Cruden. Who himself is backed up by Beauden Barrett, then Tom Taylor, then Colin Slade. How many teams can say they can cherry pick positions so easily, and so successfully?
The English team is good. I hold no illusions about that. Last night they came to play, and they came out strong. In fact the English could easily have won last night. Losing Carter in the 26th minute to an Achilles injury could well have caused the Kiwis to unravel. Steve Hansen agreed that for the second 20 minutes of the game the English controlled the game play and threatened to unseat the All Blacks game entirely. Even the first 20 minutes of the second half could have gone either way. England are always a top class side to battle against, and as I said in my preview, it’s not like the English haven’t defeated the All Blacks before. In the final 20 minutes though the wheels just seemed to come off for the English, ultimately succumbing to New Zealand 30 – 22. Julian Savea seemed to take up permanent residence behind the England try line, Ma’a Nonu was simply electric and Kieran Read was his usual indispensable self. Last nights result means the All Blacks remain undefeated in the 2013 season. More than this, the demons of Twickenham exorcised.
The Irish test next weekend will be without the services of Tony Woodcock or Dan Carter. Which is a shame, Carter has had so many issues this season it would be nice to see him go out on a high note. Either way, when the New Zealand rolls in to Dublin later this week, the Irish Eyes will not be smiling, as a 2013 season blackout is well and truly on the horizon.
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Main Photo Credit: David Rogers via Zimbio.com