Setting the scene:
Less than 30 minutes till kick-off. The All Blacks are about to play their last test match of 2008, attempting to claim the Grand Slam, and cap off a year that has seen them capture the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations Trophy. A pretty big year. David and I left the PARTY OF THE YEAR to be here, blogging, live, for you…
I’m excited. Dave is:
Apologies for the quality of the photography, but it is NOT going to get any better tonight. In fact, it may be the last photo of the evening. All that matters is that Dave is asleep on the couch, and he looks pretty settled.
Okay, wide shot of Twickenham, and I’ve got to say, the stadium is looking pretty good. It’s not the time to be getting into a conversation about the state of New Zealand’s rugby facilities, but that one shot says it all – we have a lot of work to do before 2011.
We’re in the final ad break before the teams take the field. Final thought – tonight is about Conrad Smith. He’s the enigma that Henry can’t seem to settle on. A scholar of the game, an unorthodox genius, a wayward craftsman. He’s constantly shadowed by the global megastar-in-the-making Richard Kahui, and tonight is his chance to cement himself in the #13 jersey. Conrad Smith is the kind of player that you just want to succeed – but can he, in the next 80 minutes, convince Graham Henry that he is the future?
Wow. The game is being transmitted in High-Def.
The All Blacks run onto the field… they look good. My goodness, Richard Kahui isn’t even on the bench. I didn’t know that, but there are a LOT of disappointed ladies out there. England are making the ABs wait – it’s chilly, so this is a smart play by the hapless POMs.
POMs arrive, and it’s anthem time…
NZ: Wait on! There’s no singer!! Disaster. This makes me very nervous indeed. It’s all instrumental but they still play the full, 2 verse version. This makes no sense at all without the Maori/English vocal. It’s a mess.
England: Shit! They’ve got violists – a world first. The crowd are in full voice, a rousing rendition. Massive.
Haka: Amazing camera-work. The crowd are singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’… it’s loud. Here is comes… Man, this looks SO good in high definition. It’s Ka Mate. Pretty standard response from the English, but the crowd kinda owned that. ‘Chariot’ is quite a lot better than ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
Time-on, and we are underway. Smith’s first touch is good – throws the dummy, and makes good yardage. Good head of hair. That’s the thing about Smith – he has a university student vibe, but there’s no doubt that he shampoos daily. That kind of volume doesn’t just happen.
McCaw has knocked on (we’re 4 minutes into the match). England scrum, and an opportunity to see what they’ve got. Oh dear, McCaw has been penalised (bad call), and England take the shot at goal. It’s a miss – a horrible kick pulled to the left. Justice.
7.35: Conrad makes a huge tackle, and the commentators are going ape-shit about his defensive prowess. Fair enough too, as the All Blacks are awarded a relieving penalty, and Carter boots for touch. I’ve got a feeling about this – Smith is going to be a factor…
9.23: England on attack in the ABs 22 following a penalty & kick to touch. They’re 5 meters out, swing it wide and Carter makes a text-book tackle, gets to his feet, and wins the penalty. Trademark Carter. Apologies for the short sentences, but I’m operating solo here, so this is going to be the format for the evening.
12.42: All Blacks in great field position… Ref awards a penalty to NZ (not sure what for yet) and he wants to have a chat with the English captain. They were under the hammer there. Carter is lining up a shot at goal from close to the sideline. It’s a “wobbly old kick”, but the ball somehow finds it’s way between the posts – it’s 3-0 to the ABs.
Setting the scene: Dave is still asleep on the couch, but he has shifted. He is now in a position that could best be described as “spread-eagle”. I’m desperate for food, but the pantry is not offering many options – Niki, I think a supermarket visit is on the cards. There’s a protein shake in the fridge. Tempting.
20.00: England on attack. First phase and they kick (nice one) into the ABs in goal area. Conrad moves into shot, and his hair is captured in full HD quality. It appears to be moving independently form the rest of his body. OMG – is he the Kirk Penney of rugby??
24.00: Huge call alert!! All Blacks are awarded a penalty and the referee reaches into the pocket for the yellow card. They’re down to 14 players, and the ABs seem to be building a little momentum – remember they haven’t conceded a point in the second half of a test match since departing NZ (4 matched and counting).
26.00: Another (!) penalty, and Carter slots it – it’s 6-3.
29.00: An interesting little passage of play with England going to the air, Carter beating a couple of defenders at will, and Alit Williams throwing a ridiculous looping pass into touch. Sure, it was a sloppy play by Williams, but why is he playing in the centres, and where the heck is Smith?
31.30: OMG!! Another yellow card. An English player (don’t know who, and the volume on the telly is down, so the best I can do here is say he’s blonde and looks a bit like Rickerts from the Breakers). Carter pushes the kick wide of the posts though (he’s not striking the ball well at all) and the English breathe a sigh of relief.
33.30: I’m still struggling to come to terms with this high definition coverage. Rugby players aren’t pretty, but this kind of clarity is unforgiving. The English look like mutants.
36.00: Carter is lining up yet another penalty kick (they’re coming thick and fast). He slots this one, and the All Blacks go ahead 9-3.
36.55: Goodness me. Another freaking penalty to the All Blacks. It looks like the English don’t know the rules – has anyone actually bothered to explain them to the players? Carter nails it. The score is now 12-3 to the All Blacks.
Half time: I’m starving. The rain has arrived – I hate wet-weather rugby. I’m a little bit concerned that Conrad hasn’t taken this game by the short & curlies yet. I want him to stamp his authority on the second half and – WAIT, there’s an ad for the Die Hard 4 movie on the telly. John McClane is a truly great movie character and a hell of a cop. That movie is probably worth a re-visit.
40.20: HOLY SHIT!! England make a huge break from the kick off and probably should have scored a try. They’re 2 metres away from the try line, and have us on the ropes.
42.01: Turn over… Cowan makes a break, and is looking for support. England – in desperation- make a head-high tackle, and the referee doesn’t hesitate to produce the yellow card for the third time tonight. The English seem intent on playing the majority of this match with 14 players on the field.
48.06: England scrum on the AB 22, and they’re awarded a penalty. Conrad was shoved to the deck off the ball and the slow-motion replay shows some interesting interplay between Smith’s hair and the rest of his body – there’s a disconnect there. As his body moves in one direction, his hair moves in the opposite. The volume and bounce only accentuates this effect, and in HD, it’s a sight to behold.
49.29: Meanwhile, England slot the penalty. The score is 12-6.
53.42: There’s a kicking duel. Finally! God, how long do we have to wait for a kicking duel these days? Man. Anyway, Carter gets involved, drills a beaut, and the English fullback pushes the kick off the side of the boot.
56.32: Cowan makes a great break and pop the ball to Nonu. All that Nong needed to do was throw the pass to Reid and a try was on the cards. He dummies (of course) and is tackled. Knock on, England scrum. Big scrum by the All Blacks though, turnover, and the ABs spin it through the hands to Mils who crosses the line for the first try of the match!! Suddenly, it’s 17-6.
60.35: I wonder how the party is going…
61.00: Another penalty to the All Blacks. Carter is lining it up, but to be fair, he’s sucked arse at kicking tonight (4 from 8). He slots it, just to spite me. 20-6.
63.36: Wow. Massive tackle by McCaw, gets to his feet and wins the penalty – that was vintage Richie.
65.00: Shit. The. Bed. Did that just happen?!!? Carter just kicked the ball about 6 metres to his right (to Mils standing in the centre position), and Mils crosses the line again to score. That was a miracle play, all instinct, and something I expect to never see repeated on the rugby field. Magic.
25-6 to the All Blacks.
68.25: All Blacks are opening up now and finding holes all over the place. A kick ahead leads to a 5 metre scrum – the English appear to be out on their feet…
71.36: The English are GONE! On attack, they turn it over and the All Blacks launch a counter attack through Mealamu, Sivivatu, and Nonu. Nong puts the hammer down and crosses the line – 32-6.
Setting the scene:
David has gone fetal on the couch, and appears to have settled in for the long haul now.
75.48: Another penalty. Another yellow card. That’s the 4th!! These guys are idiots.
TECHNICAL FAULT ALERT! Due to some kind of (definitely) technical (not human error) fault, the last couple of posts from this morning weren’t saved. Damn. There was some good stuff in there too – some nice post-match analysis, and a killer line about Dave waking up right on full-time and walking out the door. Well, those posts are lost forever…
But hey, the All Blacks have Slammed in Grand fashion. Well done boys.