All Blacks Poised to Win Third Straight Rugby Championship
September 25, 2014
New Zealand’s reign over the Rugby Championship look set to continue with All Blacks all but certain to take their third straight title. Having dominated the tournament last year with 6 wins from 6 games the World Champions are again unbeaten from their first 4 matches. They’re on top of the ladder with 16 points, 6 clear of second place Australia with 2 games remaining. The All Blacks face an Argentinian assignment before finishing the competition in South Africa, and already have their hands firmly on the silverware. Now it appears a matter of time before they lift another trophy after securing the Bledisloe Cup in August.
New Zealand’s first 2 games of the Championship doubled as the battle with Australia for the Bledisloe Cup. Pre-tournament, the Wallabies talked up their chances with confidence high in the Aussie camp. The opening game was played in Sydney and while New Zealand’s Haka was as fierce as ever, support for the green and gold was also electric. Both sides found attacking difficult in a tough match dominated by defence. The first half remained tryless with penalty goals providing the only points, and the visitors went to the break ahead 9-3. Australia battled hard in the second half and levelled scores at 12 all with 10 minutes to play. Neither side could break the deadlock as the tense encounter finished in a draw and without a try.
It meant Australia had to win in New Zealand to regain the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002. The visitors would have to break an Eden Park drought, having not tasted success there in 28 years. And the Eden Park hoodoo struck again as the All Blacks proved unstoppable at home racking up a 51-20 victory, their biggest against the Wallabies. New Zealand’s fired up forwards regained their reputation after being criticised in game 1, captain Richie McCaw led the way bagging 2 tries. The All Blacks scored 2 first half tries when Australia were down a man to give themselves a 23-6 lead at halftime, before they went for the jugular after the break. 4 more second half tries saw the Kiwis deliver a 31 point win as the wounded Wallabies wobbled back home without the trophy for the 12th consecutive year.
Argentina Average Springboks Steel
Next up for New Zealand was a home game against Argentina, and despite an average All Blacks performance they managed a 4 try bonus point victory over the Pumas to secure 3 wins from 3 games. But a sterner challenge was to follow against a Springboks side spurred on by their skipper’s 100th test. Aaron Cruden opened the scoring with a penalty goal, but South Africa struck back with the game’s first try. Cruden kicked his second penalty but the visitors led by 1 at the break. The Kiwis began the second half stronger and hit the front after Richie McCaw crashed over. Both sides then traded three points before the All Blacks repelled a relentless South African assault on their try-line for the final 10 minutes to hold on for a gusty 4 point win.
Race to the Record
The All Blacks were chasing an unprecedented 18 successive test win heading into their opening game in the Rugby Championships. But they remained level with the 1965 – 1969 New Zealand side and the South African team of 1997 – 98 after that tie with Australia ended their run on 17 straight victories. Now a new goal is in sight as they chase a world record undefeated run. The World Champions are now 21 games without defeat and if they can remain unbeaten in this year’s competition they’ll equal the record set by another New Zealand side in 1988.
The All Blacks were paying little over $1.50 to win the Rugby Championship before a ball was kicked and it appears those betting odds were over. Now they’re unbackable at under $1.05 ahead of their fifth game of the tournament against the Pumas. The All Blacks are around $1.10 to continue the South Americans winless run in in Argentina on Saturday night. That match will be followed by perhaps New Zealand’s toughest test of the campaign when they take on the Springboks in South Africa in the final round. While it’s likely they’ll have already gained the trophy by then, the Kiwis are likely to have that undefeated world record in mind. They’ll be hoping for a similar result to last year’s South African triumph when then they beat the Springboks 38-27 in a pulsating game in Johannesburg.