Henry relieved after return to winning ways
September 19, 2009
Rocky Elsom feels the force of the New Zealand defence © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry admitted to a mixture of relief and immense satisfaction following his team's comprehensive 33-6 Tri-Nations victory against Australia.
The three-tries-to-nil triumph was by far the All Blacks' best performance of the campaign and came after weeks of criticism directed at himself, assistant coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith and the players following several sub-standard efforts - particularly against new champions South Africa.
"We're delighted with the performance. It's been a while coming and the guys played well in all facets of the game," said Henry. "The team's been under huge pressure and they have responded to that pressure and played particularly well tonight. We got some really good first phase ball at the line-out and scrum and as the game went on that got more and more."
Henry singled out the loose forward trio of captain Richie McCaw, Adam Thomson and Kieran Read, who totally dominated their opposites David Pocock, Rocky Elsom and George Smith, who was substituted late in the game, at the breakdown.
"The work at the tackle area by the forwards in general, but particularly the loose forwards, was exceptional," the coach added. "We had a big game in the loose with Richie, Adam and Reado. They played well there and were backed up by the tight five. We turned over a lot of ball and put the pressure on. We played well on attack and well on defence. It was a good all round game."
McCaw hailed the character within the squad, adding, "It's great. When you're down in the depths it's a real show of what character you've got in the team. We've always known that it was there, the crowd support has been outstanding, we've had so much support all week with people just wishing us all the best, it's great that everyone's behind us."
McCaw also praised his side's defensive effort after they limited the Wallabies, fresh from victory over the champion Springboks two weeks ago, to two first-half penalties.
"Pretty proud of the guys, the whole group was outstanding and we're very, very happy.," he said. "Defence sets the attitude of the team, that's what we wanted to do tonight. Right across the park everyone scrambled well. Some of the hits created turnovers when we were at the wrong end of the field and had the pressure on, that's what rugby's all about, it's fairly simple.
"Lucky we had the belief in ourselves. We realised last week that only minor things were wrong and we worked hard all week and put that together. It's vital to get your game going and we managed to do that."
Australia coach Robbie Deans said the biggest disappointment was the way his side had allowed Nonu and Rokocoko to score after they had been denied a try by some staunch All Blacks defence.
"The All Blacks were hugely desperate and played very well. The most disappointing thing from our perspective was that we essentially capitulated once the game was gone which was pretty late. We were hammering away but the All Blacks defended well and they denied us a score which would have put us within one try.
"But at that point when we weren't successful in scoring and the All Blacks did, we rolled over and that's what disappointed me. This young group took a step in Brisbane but they have now experienced both extremes and it was an experience we were hopeful of avoiding obviously."
Australia captain George Smith reflected on a disappointing finish to the campaign but refused to buy in to the idea that their two-week break cost them momentum this weekend.
"We're not using that as an excuse, we prepared well for this game. The boys were ready to play tonight, it's just in a number of areas we lacked it. We're going to have to fix that up come the spring tour," he said. "We didn't have too much possession, full credit to the All Blacks. When you have the other team dominating a number of areas it's very hard to get any momentum going forward."