Are the All Blacks on the slide?
IN THE NEWS: The New Zealand media is an unforgiving animal, pouncing at the very first sight of a potential weakness.
The New Zealand media is an unforgiving animal, pouncing at the very first sight of a potential weakness.
In the wake of a rare draw, after a 17-Test winning run, the question is now being raised: 'Is this All Black team on the slide?'
NZ Herald columnist Chris Rattue suggested the All Blacks appeared to have peaked and are now sliding towards rugby mortality - where the rest of the world resides.
"Are these All Blacks any longer the indomitable force that we like to portray them as?," Rattue suggested.
He started off by suggesting the world record (for 18 consecutive Test wins) was of little consequence and said the aftermath of the drawn Test in Sydney at the weekend must include concerns that the All Blacks' World Cup retention campaign is showing too many flaws.
"A lack of ball carrying clout from the forwards allowed an average Wallaby side to limp within sight of victory with barely a tackle in anger thrown in their way.
"Where were the big statements from the major players? It's hard to recall one decent rumble from a fired-up All Black pack. Instead, Saturday night's snorefest suggested that while Steve Hansen has put together a very good record, these All Blacks aren't as good as a world mark would have made them appear.
"They were woeful in the rain, the only thing being that the Wallabies weren't much better.
"Who really cared about this world record 18 consecutive test victories anyway? There are only four or five decent Test rugby nations and it's a naff business comparing modern records to what went on in a very different yesteryear. It was all a bit of PR hoo-ha, although the record would have been a nice trinket to have.
"The All Blacks have ended up creating a record for not breaking the record, falling at the final hurdle again. Rather than sticking a flag on top of a mountain, they looked like day trippers without the right gear. With the World Cup year looming, and after the lucky escape against Ireland and inconsistent series against England, the All Blacks are one scratchy performance away from a potential crisis after an ill-disciplined, ragged display. Saturday's Eden Park contest has new meaning."
According to All Black great Justin Marshall, who also wrote for the NZ Herald, it's the All Blacks who'll head to Eden Park this week in the better frame of mind.
"For long periods they were second best and on balance, when they review the game, they'll probably concede that a draw was as good as they deserved," Marshall wrote in his column for the mass-circulation newspaper.
"The penalty count was against them and they had discipline issues, most of them of their own making. That put numerical pressure on them for a quarter of the match.
"Yet when everything looked lost they still had the courage to try to win.
"That's why I'm convinced they'll arrive at Eden Park in Auckland the happier side.
"Australia threw a lot at the All Blacks. Just looking at the body language and attitude they took into the game convinced me it was going to be a tough night for the visitors, but the All Blacks stood up to it all.
"They'll get to Auckland, review the tapes and immediately recognise several areas of improvement. Australia will arrive still not quite knowing how they didn't win the game. That can be deflating."
Source: NZ Herald