McCaw focuses on the positives
December 6, 2009
New Zealand captain tacklesl Barbarians scrum-half Fourie du Preez during the clash at Twickenham on Saturday © Getty Images
Schalk Burger Stephen Donald Fourie du Preez Jaque Fourie Matt Giteau Richie McCaw Nick Mallett Victor Matfield Jamie Roberts Joe Rokocoko
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw refused to be downcast in the wake of his side's tour-ending defeat at the hands of the Barbarians at Twickenham.
The Nick Mallett-coached Baa Baas scored an historic 25-18 victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham - only the second times the invitation side have beaten New Zealand and 36 years since their famous Cardiff Arms Park victory.
Flying Springbok Bryan Habana's hat-trick was the difference as the South Africa/Australia dominated side scored three tries to two and had a clear edge in experience against the second-string All Blacks.
It robbed the All Blacks of an unbeaten finish to their six-match tour and saw them end 2009 with a 10 win, five loss record. McCaw, who led the side but was subbed at half-time to allow Tanerau Latimer his chance at openside flanker, said it was a glum mood in the sheds but the bigger picture was more important.
"Sitting here straight after the game it is a bit disappointing, but once we get back and reflect, there's been a lot of good things happen," McCaw said. "In the tests, which are the most important, we built pretty well over those five tests and last week (the 39-12 win over France), the things we did there were pretty good."
After seven weeks on the road, McCaw said the players would be happy the tour was over and they could have a well-earned summer break. The match was tagged to the end of their tour as a revenue-gatherer for the New Zealand Rugby Union, but was also a chance for fringe players to have one final say.
Coach Graham Henry said the players were looking forward to tomorrow's plane trip home but had definitely been up for the match. "The guys prepared well and they were against high-quality players who are leaders in their particular national side," Henry said. "That lack of experience probably told a wee bit and they'll be better players for that."
The coach said some players had taken their chances and others missed an opportunity as the All Blacks dominated the first half but trailed 10-14 at the break. Scrum-half Brendon Leonard had his best game in a frustrating year in the black jersey and played much of the second half with a broken nose, while centre Luke McAlister and try-scoring lock Anthony Boric also finished their tours strongly.
Fly-half Stephen Donald offered a mixed bag and was unlucky to throw the intercept pass which saw Habana score his second try on the stroke of halftime. Replacement Mike Delany also found it tough to impose himself in the second half. Tamati Ellison and Zac Guildford both departed with hamstring strains, which saw flanker Liam Messam posted to the wing.
The Barbarians were a tough outfit, with Victor Matfield leading the way and the loose trio of Schalk Burger and Wallabies George Smith and Rocky Elsom a handful. The midfield of Jamie Roberts and Jaque Fourie found holes while Wallabies fly-half Matt Giteau laid on Habana's crucial third try with 11 minutes left.
Said a proud coach Mallett, "Once they put their mind to it, they looked like a test side that had played together for a couple of months. It was absolutely incredible and I was so proud of the way the guys defended, because that more than anything else shows the character of a team.
"It felt to me like a Test team going out to play a Test match. It's just fantastic to beat the All Blacks. There are some South African players who've beaten the All Blacks four times this year and I don't think that's happened all that often. A lot of history was made today."
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action