CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND // Richie McCaw praised his side's defensive effort in their 20-10 victory over Australia yesterday, which helped them retain the Bledisloe Cup and all but seal the Tri Nations title. "It was right up there," said the captain when asked how he rated his team's defensive performance. "It shows the character in the team. In the past few games we've won them by scoring tries, whereas tonight it was the defence that won us the game. We took our opportunities in the first half then had to defend. There were some big hits in there, but... the boys kept getting up."
McCaw said the effort had taken its toll on the team, with the Wallabies having to make just 75 tackles while they held onto the ball for sustained periods. The All Blacks made 110 tackles, missing only five. Australia also won 110 rucks and mauls to New Zealand's 70. "It does take a fair bit out of you and I know the guys, with 10 minutes to go, didn't have a lot of gas left in the tank," McCaw said.
"There were some fairly big hits out there ... there will certainly be some sore bodies in both teams." Robbie Deans, the Australia coach who was making his first return with the Wallabies to his hometown of Christchurch, also said the All Blacks defence had been a major difference in the match. "They were able to deny us momentum at the breakdown. They're a very [good] defensive side, that's probably the one thing they do best, they slow ball, which allows them to bring their organisation and athleticism into play."
Deans, who was disappointed at his side's effort last week, said they had played a lot better yesterday but must learn to seize their opportunities if they were able to end what is now a nine-game losing streak to the Kiwis. "At this level if you aspire to beat the All Blacks you have to play your hand when it presents itself, and take most of those moments and we weren't able to do that," he said. "That's something they were able to do. They scored a couple of times but we weren't able to do it. That finishing was the point of difference in the game."