New Zealand 27 – Italy 6
The All Blacks struggled to overcome a committed Italian side tonight scoring three tries to none, but it was the manner of the win that will have the AB brains trust a little concerned. The result was never going to be in doubt, just a matter of by how much.
In previous encounters the score has always been substantial but tonight our Eyetie compatriots tackled their hearts out and in fact, had a huge territorial advantage for most of the game (70% played in the All Black half).
The trouble for the Azzurri was they only had a popgun attack and couldn’t penetrate the AB defence, that’s why they were trying insipid drop goals when organised attack with ball in hand was the only answer. I guess we already knew that from their two previous Wallaby tests. However, what we all wanted came true: New Zealand looked crappy for large parts of this game and didn’t quite score as many points as the Wallabies against them. Combined with the French result I think we’ve had our first win of the season against the ABs?
The All Black set piece was fairly steady with some scrums suffering from the collapsing disease and lineouts with honours about even. At ruck and maul time the Azzurri gave as good as they got but hey, they’re no Froggies. World class No 8 and captain Sergio Parisse plays in France…..and unfortunately, has picked up a few bad Frenchie habits. I don’t mean dragging on Gauloise durries, scoffing garlic sausages or bonking his supposed mistress (they do that sort of thing in France you know), I mean eye gouging – or eyetie gouging in his case! It was replayed for all to see and I suspect Mr Larter the citing commissioner would, at this very time, be reaching for his DVD player. I’d imagine Sergio will be doing some form of porridge, maybe he’ll be having a longer break in the off-season than the others.
The Italians fronted with probably the best team that they could muster on this tour. They’re difficult to play against and are hard to defeat when they’re in the mood, as the Wallabies have found out on previous occasions. Prior to this game the Azzurri suggested it was about damage limitation to some extent and I think this is the test that they probably focussed on. They pinned the All Blacks down in their half by fairly astute kicking and tried to force mistakes. The fact that they played most of the game in the NZ half is indicative of these tactics. Notwithstanding the three tries, their defence was generally accurate and very physical.
When the All Blacks decide to run the ball and play a bit expansively they are very dangerous. Two of their tries were scored in this manner, however, the Azzurri kept them mainly in check. I don’t think the All Blacks will be very happy with the result. They looked to be just going through the motions a bit to me although they did many things right. Maybe I need to give the Italians a bit more credit for restricting the way the All Blacks were allowed to play? Also there were a number of player and positional changes to the All Black team from last week which can be disruptive.
After a succesful early penalty goal by Luke McAlister, the Italians were caught napping inside their 22m on Joe Rockocoko’s wing. McAlister kicked a pinpoint accurate ball to an unmarked Joe for their first try. After another McAlister penalty and a Luke McLean three pointer, they went to the halftime break at 13-3. McLean kicked another penalty after the break. Isaac Ross finished off some good attacking play with a try which was converted, score 20-6. A George Whitelock try late in the match, again converted by McAlister gave the final result 27-6.
For the All Blacks, Joe Rockocoko had his best match in years. He was constantly involved in attack and looking for work. He gained heaps of metres every time he had the ball – must have been something to do with Henry kicking him up the arse in the media after last weekend’s game. Another who was particularly slippery was Mils Muliaina. Brendon Leonard was back after almost a year on the sideline and made a few trademark breaks.
In the forwards, Isaac Ross was everywhere and Jerome Kaino followed on from last week. Luke McAlister – well, he did some good things and he did some average things. I think the good outweighed the bad. His chip kicking and decision making were effective but some of his passing was not, and he sometimes got caught on the backfoot. His goalkicking was 100% spot on. There was enough there to show promise.
The Aussie Azzurri stood out. Il Gowie gets better with every outing. He shows class in all aspects of his game and was the standout back. Luke McLean wasn’t too far behind, steady as a rock at the back with quality tactical kicking. I liked the look of the hooker Ghiraldini with the ball in hand, Tebaldi on the flank and of course Sergio the eyetie gouger. The Azzurri should be proud of tonight’s effort, certainly a moral victory on their behalf and a good way to finish a fairly poor season.
Its Tri-Nations next for the All Blacks. If this is any example they’ve got a bit of work to do; however, the return of the A-Team will resolve many of their issues. I think their priority should be to ‘get Carter’.
New Zealand 27 (Joe Rokocoko, Isaac Ross, George Whitelock tries; Luke McAlister 2 pen, 3 con) Italy 6 (Luke McLean 2 pen).
Update: The Beak gave Parisse an 8 week lagging beginning 2 August (the start of the Italian domestic season) for his ‘eyetie’ gouge.