Scotty Donaldson reviews the New Zealand vs Canada match and looks at if Colin Slade has the goods to replace Dan Carter.
The All Blacks recovered from the late withdrawals of their superstars Dan Carter and Richie McCaw to record a 79-15 win over Canada in greasy conditions at Wellington Regional Stadium in front of a full house including yours truly. The hosts outscored the visitors by 12 tries to two including four to forgotten winger Zac Guildford, but the result was overshadowed by interest in performances by first five eighth Colin Slade who has the massive boots of Dan Carter to fill for the rest of the tournament and the mounting injury toll that saw the All Blacks having to play loose forward Victor Vito on the wing.
Colin Slade started poorly with an early kick of his charged down and a penalty was conceded to the Canadians who took the lead with the penalty goal. He made some handling mistakes and bad passes, while he also missed several kicks at goal early on, but seemed to improve as the game went on. He is a confidence player and most New Zealand fans must be wondering if Piri Weepu should be included to kick goals, even if it is as a halfback? Slade then got shifted to the wing and limped off after an hour. He is one of several players who left the field during the match and the All Blacks medical team will be kept busy over the next week.
Slade did some good things too, including his break and pass lead to the first try of the game to winger Zac Guildford and some good kicking for territory, leaving the All Black selectors with plenty of decisions to make about the Dan Carter replacement.
Flanker Victor Vito and right wing Israel Dagg also touched down and Slade kicked a penalty before Guildford got his second by showing great speed to capitalise on a fumble by his Canadian opposite.
His pace was again in evidence four minutes later when he sprinted clear to put Mils Muliaina in for a try in his 99th Test, and he was on the end of a move sparked by a clever kick-pass by Sonny Bill Williams to seal his hat-trick.
Trainor narrowed the gap for Canada by scoring a try in the left corner on the stroke of half-time.
The All Blacks scrum dominated the Canadians and despite some average passing from some of the All Blacks inside backs in the greasy and windy conditions, the hosts generally dominated proceedings.
The All Blacks lead 37-8 at half time which included a well taken Zac Guildford hat-trick of tries, although the Canadians fought bravely and were rewarded at the end of the half with a try to winger Conor Trainor.
Trainor then scored first in the second half winning the race to score from a kick ahead. It was converted to make it 37-15.
But the All Blacks soon reasserted their authority when Conrad Smith took a pass from Williams and offloaded for scrum half Jimmy Cowan to score near the posts.
About 50 minutes into the second half is when the rotation and injures started occurring. Muliaina and Kieran Read were replaced after 50 minutes flanker Jerome Kaino moved round to number 8 and immediately took advantage of slack tackling to score the All Blacks’ eighth try, which Slade converted to make it 51-15.
Kaino had an awesome match scoring two tries and always broke tackles.
Sonny Bill Williams scored on the left side attack to beat the Canada cover for the ninth and Kaino got his second when the New Zealand scrum drove over beneath the posts. It wasn't the first time that the All Blacks scrum caused problems for the Canadians.
Weepu converted both and put in a kick ahead to produce Guildford’s fourth, for which he also added the two extra points to make it 72-15.
Weepu’s influence was also in evidence at the close when his inside pass put Vito in under the posts. He made no mistake with the conversion.
In summary, it is difficult to read too much into a win over Canada. Colin Slade had a mixed bag and it will be interesting to see if Piri Weepu did enough when he came off the bench and looked more reliable as Dan Carter's replacement. The other option is starting with Piri Weepu at halfback and goal kicker in place of Jimmy Cowan who had a mixed bag game. I think it is too late to start Cruden and it could be best to rotate between Piri Weepu and Colin Slade as the first five eighths during the business end of the competition. I think Weepu is reliable and safer, but lacks the pace of Slade. I would start Slade against Argentina and hope his goal kicking improves.
It would be a massive call to start with Cruden who was last seen looking drunk after the Australia vs USA game. Mils Muliaina was solid, but like Slade he left the field with an injury. I think that Dagg is definitely the first choice fullback now, assuming that he is fit for the next match. I still find it disturbing that Mils Muliaina who was at primary school with me is now referred to as a veteran! This win was great for the confidence of Zac Guildford, Colin Slade in some regards and the All Blacks set pieces.
Man of the Match
While Zac Guildford gave the selectors a reason to select him in future games with four tries, it was hard to go past Jerome Kaino who was a constant threat with the ball in hand and a menace in defence.
New Zealand 79:
Tries: Guildford 4, Vito 2, Dagg, Muliaina, Cowan, Kaino 2, Williams
Cons: Slade 4, Weepu 4
Tries: Trainor 2
What did you think of the All Blacks win over Canada? Do you think that Colin Slade has the goods to be Dan Carter's replacement?