Anatomy of a Black Grand Slam
By James Mortimer, 1 Dec 2008 James Mortimer is a Roar Guru
- Rugby Union news
- Tri Nations Tournament news
- New Zealand All Blacks news
- South Africa Springboks news
New Zealand will return home to their shores the best team in the world by some margin – and the conquered home nations should be better for it.
Some Northern Hemisphere reporters pointed out that European teams had little chance against their Tri Nations opponents; with the All Blacks – to quote Mike Catt – “having been together for four or five years. I’m not making excuses. In terms of the defensive organisation and the awareness of the players around you, that time together makes a huge difference.”
The past year of accomplishments, capped by an impressive Grand Slam has made short memories of the perennial bashers of the men in black. Surely they forget that just 12 months ago, nine front line All Blacks, combined with several fringe international players representing over 600 test caps departed the New Zealand game. When we add to this departure Tana Umaga at the end of 2005 – it has been a remarkable turnaround for the All Blacks.
This has shown the remarkable foresight shown by Graham Henry through his coaching reign with his rotation and development policies that New Zealand was able to field a test team against England containing nearly 650 international caps.
But without deviation, the All Blacks achieved their third touring Grand Slam, their fourth overall when considering that they whitewashed the home nations at the 1995 World Cup – unofficially a Grand Slam as they defeated the four unions “while on tour”.
The Springboks had achieved four Grand Slams before any other Southern Nation had achieved their first – being in 1912-13, 1931-32, 1951-52 and the final coming in 1961. They have not won one since (having had the chance in both 1998 and 2004).
The All Blacks achieved their first under Graham Mourie in 1978 – with Tana Umaga’s team of 2005 completing a “full deck” Grand Slam, not only achieving that, but whitewashing the British and Irish Lions in that year.
The Wallabies have achieved just the one, under Andrew Slack in 1984 – with the mercurial Mark Ella scoring a try in each test. The ARU are in the process of setting up a 25th Anniversary Grand Slam tour next year, an opportunity Robbie Deans evolving Wallabies will clearly relish. Australia however also is the only nation to suffer the insult of Grand Slam of losses; losing to all home nations in 1957-58.
Statistically, based on the four test results, the All Blacks 2008 Grand Slam is the most successful ever completed by any nation – but this is hard to judge, considering that conventional Slam tours in the past were combined with midweek matches, consisting up to 20 matches.
On paper, it did not begin as spectacularly as New Zealand’s 2005 Grand Slam, in which the All Blacks defeated Wales 41-3 and Ireland 45-7 after rotating every member of the starting fifteens. But Tana Umaga’s team was a side with a nucleus intact after the 2003 World Cup.
Richie McCaw’s Grand Slammers did not have the same luxuries. However, this is the first Grand Slamming team to go through all four home nations without conceding a try. In 320 minutes of test rugby the All Blacks iron curtain was impenetrable to their European foes – albeit an under strength Munster side did cross the New Zealand defensive lines.
Against Scotland, Henry fielded a under strength All Black team making 12 changes from the team that beat the Wallabies in Hong Kong. It marked the 27th game between the two nations; despite an impressive showing by the Scottish pack. 32-6 and no points conceded in the second half.
Versus a strong looking Irish side at Croke Park, the All Blacks initially struggled despite fielding a full strength team, being held to 3-3 until a McCaw penalty try at the end of the first half. In the 22nd game between the two nations, the All Blacks again shut their foes out in the second half to win impressively 22-3.
The All Blacks remain the only nation Ireland and Scotland have never defeated in 103 years of clashes.
Against a full strength Six Nations Grand Slam champions, again the All Blacks were at full strength, and again were rattled in the first half going into the break at 9-6. But 23 unanswered points flayed the Welsh challenge, taking their winning streak against Wales to 20 matches; being undefeated since 1955. The third consecutive match on tour with no points conceded in the second half.
And of course the final match against England, who despite being all fire and brimstone, fell to the Black wave 32-6. The second half conversion was the only second half points conceded all tour.
2008 All Blacks Grand Slams Statistics
Points scored: 115
Points conceded: 24
11+1 penalty try
Ma’a Nonu 3, Mils Muliaina 2, Anthony Tuitavake, Piri Weepu, Richard Kahui, Anthony Boric, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw penalty tries
Dan Carter 43 points: 16 from 26, 58% conversion
Stephen Donald 10 points: 5 from 6, 80% conversion
My man of the series: Ma’a Nonu