The English were this morning hit by the steam-roller again.
Fifteen minutes into the second half of the World Cup rugby clash at Twickenham London a timewarp appeared to take the game back four years to the 1995 World Cup Semi-final in which brilliant All Black wing Jonah Lomu exploded over Jeremy Guscott and then English Captain Will Carling to score in an almost identical spot.
This time the only apparent difference was that Austin Healy played the part of Carling.
Lomu’s try was in 1995 the icing on the cake. The All Blacks won comprehensively.
The 1999 version of the try was probably more critical in a relatively close match. With the score locked up at 16-all 55 minutes into the game it gave the All Blacks much needed breathing space at a critical phase in the game.
The final scoreline of 30 to 16 included a final minutes try from substituted half-back Byron Kelleher and an early try from full-back Jeff Wilson.
Kelleher was the beneficiary of a spectacular display of last minute athleticism from prop Karl Hoeft.
Close to the final wistle Hoeft dived out of a ruck close to the try line and set the ball up for the wily Otago half-back to dart through a couple of English tacklers and score another converted try.
On the other side of the scrum from Hoeft, Craig Dowd – in the game for the injured Kees Meews - played most probably the game of his career. Blood dripping from two cuts – one to his forehead another to the cheek – he propped a scrum which did not once go backwards and which provided the vital platform to enable the All Black backs to run the ball as only they know how.
In this respect the game was pure television gold from the beginning to the end.
In the first half the All Blacks went into an early lead after a try in the corner from full back Jeff Wilson involving all three wings!
First Lomu – who ploughed up the center drawing tacklers putting – (former wing now seemingly completely comfortable at No. 13) Christian Cullen – into a gap who then passed to the final wing on the field Tana Umaga – who in turn miraculously managed to pop the ball up for Wilson.
Having Lomu, Wilson, Umaga and Cullen on the field simultaneously is what every New Zealand rugby fan has wanted – this morning it worked a treat.
Everything is going well for this team. Among the veterans Robin Brooke, Dowd (already mentioned) and Josh Kronfeld are showing no signs of tiring. Ditto “the general” Mehrtens, who remains irreplaceably efficient both at kicking goals and at kicking the All Blacks into strong attacking position.
Okay, yes the All Blacks did make handling errors and - lest this sound too much like a rave – yes, it was far from all one way traffic. The English forwards performed admirably and the English backs were often dangerous.
The English turned ball over against the All Blacks on numerous occasions. Center De Glanville’s try under the post (from a chip through) was a little lucky perhaps but the English backs did give the All Black defence a lot of work to do. And the All Blacks also had a few problems with line-outs that they might like to get on top of as the competition progresses.
That said this morning’s game was nevertheless far and away the most satisfying victory the team has experienced this year.
The All Blacks went into to this morning’s game as the most over-hyped All Black team of all time. This was dangerous.
The English for their part were remarkably well prepared both mentally and physically, and they had home side advantage.
After the tri-series the All Blacks did look up to winning the cup, and were certainly logical favourites. But for all the apparent confidence there were quite a few worries creeping into Kiwi fans mind’s over the past few days about today’s clash., particularly after a dreadful game in Sydney.
This morning any doubts about the quality of this All Black team were dispelled.
They proved they are not only up to it if they can play like this then they are ready to take the cup.
Bring it on