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/ The Rugby Championship 2014

/ Verdict

The Growden Report
'First Test points go to the All Blacks'
Greg Growden
August 18, 2014

The Bledisloe Cup opener represents the ultimate lost opportunity for Australia. This was a Test match the Wallabies should have won, and would have won had they used their brains. Instead, an inability to finish and their failure to keep composure in pressure situations saw them unable yet again to 'seize the moment'.

And with the result, the Wallabies fumbled another chance for Australian rugby to resurrect itself in the eyes of a discerning public. After so much pre-match anticipation, the crowd left Homebush wet, numb and feeling very flat. What could have been a dazzling public relations moment for the game instead ended up like one of those horrible party-pooper moments. But it could have been so much different.

If the Wallabies are to learn anything from this drawn game, they must treat it as an unnecessary loss. If they think by finishing level with the All Blacks that they have suddenly discovered the magic formula to beating them, they are having themselves on; it will be a long time before they again see the All Blacks in such a vulnerable state. Good teams take advantage of susceptible opponents. Fair-to-middling ones let them off.

We didn't take our chances - McKenzie
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Rare are the moments when you have the All Blacks scrambling. They never give you a leg-up. So when you're granted 20 minutes of play when the All Blacks are down one man, you must make full use of it. The Wallabies didn't, failing to take full advantage of dominating possession and territory. And when it is raining, and adventurous play has to be restricted, you certainly never ignore the chance of three easy points, through close penalties or field goals. The Wallabies gave up those chances.

The Wallabies ignored several comfortable shots at goal just before half-time, as their forwards were distracted by white-line fever. And in the final minute, the Wallabies wasted the most irresistible of field goal opportunities. With a scrum set on the All Blacks quarter-line, and the Wallabies having the feed, Bernard Foley was in the perfect position to win the game. He was just 30 metres out, straight in front of the posts. The moment required only quick service from the scrum-base. Instead the Wallabies decided to take the ball up and bring an erratic referee into the equation at the ensuing tackle; sure enough, a trigger-happy Jaco Peyper pinged Australia for not releasing the ball. The moment was lost.

Richie McCaw left with a "hollow feeling"
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What should infuriate the Wallabies most is the fact the All Blacks were way off their best but in many areas still out maneuvered them. New Zealand were more composed. Their midfield kicking was better. They never got ahead of themselves. Even though clearly miffed by several decisions from the over-excitable Peyper - who once again showed he is not up to the required international standard - the All Blacks quickly regathered when several bewildering penalties went against them.

Here was a line-up that believed in each other's capabilities and ability to get each other out of trouble. Their self-belief was shown when, perched in their own quarter after the final bell, they still attempted to win the Test with one last attacking spurt.

Australia's Michael Hooper was disappointed to have "lost" © Getty Images
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It is so apparent that the All Blacks have plenty of leaders. By contrast, the Wallabies appeared a bit short in direction. Cohesion was lacking. Their decision-making and leadership skills under stress were flawed.

The All Blacks also won out in the pre-match banter. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is a genius at stirring his opponents, and his barb that Kurtley Beale was picked at No.10 only to keep the Sydney rugby league scouts at bay was a masterstroke; it became an unnecessary distraction for the Wallabies. Beale wasn't terrible on the night, but he wasn't great either. The All Blacks targeted him, and he failed to be authoritative.

And so the Wallabies head this week to the Eden Park graveyard, exactly as the New Zealanders want them, with doubts intensifying over their direction and selections. First Test points go to the All Blacks.

Australia 12-12 New Zealand (Australia only)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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