Make no mistake about it - this was a massive game, and the All Blacks have proved a thing or two to themselves and the critics by coming out on top. I was there at the park, and for all the All Blacks' confidence and class you can't tell me they weren't shaking when "Swing Low" rolled around the stadium. That kind of singing has to be experienced to be believed - it raises hairs in places you thought you'd clean shaven.
Despite that the boys came out and ran tackle practice
while the Poms had the ball for the first 15 minutes, hammering anything in white
that came knocking on the advantage line.
I reckon the game was won and lost by then - the girls in white obviously weren't quick-thinking enough to unlock the Black defence. The Black backs looked classy when they managed to hold on to the ball - something they will have to nail if they want to win this comp. Nevertheless, there were a couple of telling moments in the match, probably none more so than Jonah's try. The big fella ran the angles perfectly - out to beat Jeremy Gasket, in to meet the cover defence and then out again to burn off the last chasers, Dan "Pistol" Luger and Matt "Not-as-awesome" Dawson. He touched down sweetly like a jumbo jet just in front of us and the terraces exploded with untrammeled joy.
"You're not singing, you're not singing, you're not
singing any mooooorrrre!" A couple of minutes before the try the ball had been worked
left along the All Black backline, but stopped short of Jonah. When play broke down we saw
him wander over to Cullen and tell him "I want the ****in' ball", so when the
next possession came Mehrtens made sure he flicked it straight out to the wing!
Ten minutes later, with the clock ticking down, Craig Dowd made a massive play in dispossessing the Poms near their own line, and Lord Byron duly collected and touched down in front of us. The Poms were broken well and truly, and the schoolboy grin on Kelleher's face said it all. As the white jerseys gathered behind the goal line, Dowdie lingered long enough to applaud them mockingly.
There was enough slack in the AB's performance that left you confident they had something up their sleeves for later, and the most pleasing thing about it was that when they held on to the ball, they opened up an English defence that the press here had talked up all week, "coached by the renowned Phil Larder". Josh was huge on the day, loping around the park with that deceptively quick jog of his, Mehrts' distribution was awesome, and Jonah looked hungry and sharp. Now we need to build on this, starting with a good tonking of the Eyeties, then giving Scotland a good seeing to. After that, the world?
We enjoyed a pint at the bar after the match, standing around clad in black and manfully accepting the praise of the English fans. Much more tolerable than my last visit here in December 1997!
Our Twickenham Correspondent and his bro celebrate!