Kiwi bench the key

Richie McCaw has lauded the effort of his team’s substitutes for their come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Australia.

The All Blacks were struggling at 17-7 down after two Australian tries either side of the break. Eight minutes into the second stanza on came hooker Keven Mealamu for Andrew Hore, scrumhalf Piri Weepu for Jimmy Cowan, while Stephen Donald – normally a flyhalf - replaced Ma’a Nonu at 12.

Three tries in 20 minutes and a 28-17 scoreline was the result, and McCaw acknowledged the subs’ contribution in the turnaround.

“With the substitutes and the fresh legs you expect that sort of impact, and especially with quality individuals like Piri, Keven and Stephen it adds to the impetus,” McCaw said after the match.

As always, the breakdown was crucial in determining the outcome. “In the second half we got stronger, but in the first half we didn’t really play. We got a rev up at half-time, which was deserved. We definitely tried to attack the breakdown, but we were at the back end of it during the opening half. But from there on we got the momentum we needed,” said McCaw.

Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock said his team were extremely positive heading into the shed, but lamented the slow ball they received from the contact points due to McCaw and co.

“At half-time we were very positive and we came out in that second period feeling we held the ascendancy. It felt as though the breakdown hurt us, it was hard to get any momentum. The battle of the breakdown with the new laws is massive, and we came second today,” said Mortlock.

McCaw paid tribute to all three teams in the competition for a fiercely contested Tri-Nations. “The last few weeks just shows how any one of the teams can beat anyone and it shows how tight the tournament is.