Portugal leave their mark

17th Sep 2007, 08:41

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Joao Correira enjoys Portugal's magic moment

Joao Correira enjoys Portugal's magic moment

Not often do you describe the efforts of 108-13 losers as wondrous, but Portugal were just that against New Zealand on Saturday.

It was always going to be hard not to see them as the romanticists' victors on the day, but Portugal's brave efforts in a 108-13 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday were wondrous.

Nearly fifty points adrift at half-time, the men in red came out for the second half with a few fresh faces and some new-found adrenaline, and brought the Stade Gerland to its feet with a try, followed by a sustained period of pressure in the ABs half of the field.

But it was in the latter stages of each half where the differences between professionals and non-professionals came to the fore, with the All Blacks enjoying purple patches just before the break, and in the final ten minutes when Portugal's braves had shot their bolt. In the end, the try tally was every bit as comprehensive as we expected - 16-1 - but Portugal's players will have an unforgettable experience and moment to savour for the rest of their lives.

But back to the All Blacks. Back-line players Aaron Mauger, Joe Rokocoko and Conrad Smith each scored a brace, making the most of their minimal involvement in the game.

Moments of sporting splendour aside, it was an easy ride for the All Blacks who steam-rolled their opposition, scoring effortless tries throughout the match.

Rokocoko, who drew first blood for the All Blacks, would have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of space he was afforded en route to his second try in the 11th minute of the game.

The All Blacks took the quick line-out and Rokocoko was virtually untouched as he ran a good 55 meters before dotting down for the 40th try of his career.

The only try that required any real effort was Mauger's in the 29th minute..

The much-favoured All Blacks certainly didn't always look like a team unit, as a plethora of unforced errors characterized what was an anti-climactic first quarter for Jerry Collins' charges.

Two break-away tries by an inspired Rokocoko were all the disjointed All Blacks could offer in that particular period of play.

Fly-half Nick Evans struggled to take charge of his back-line early on - nerves were always going to be factor for him. As a result the All Black faithful got to see very little of both Mauger and Conrad Smith in midfield action.

The only positive aspect of the All Black game early on was their sheer dominance in the set-pieces, where they stole a fair share of the Portuguese line-outs. The scrums were just an unfair contest altogether, with the All Black pack outweighing Os Lobos by over 100kg.

Portugal's top points scorer Goncalo Malheiro, who put on solid display, got Os Lobos onto the score-sheet with a well struck 21st minute drop-goal. The cheer from the neutral fans in the crowd was deafening.

The complexion of the game soon changed however, as the All Blacks-even if only for a brief passage of play - stepped into second gear, scoring six tries in fifteen minutes.

Portugal, who made a spirited start, went into to half-time with their backs firmly against the wall with the half-time score at 52-3 in favour of New Zealand.

Coach Tomaz Morais made some inspired half-time changes, as replacement hooker Rui Cordeiro scored the first Portuguese try of the game, after a determined forward pack pushed the All Blacks, far superior in size, backwards for several phases.

The stunned All Blacks responded in the only way they knew how when scrum-half Andrew Ellis exploited another gaping hole in the Portuguese defence to score his first All Black try.

The floodgates then opened as the All Black back-line shared seven more tries between them, two of which came from Smith - who until that point in the game had barely touched the ball.

In all fairness Collins' team showed a lot more cohesion as the game wore on and Henry should be satisfied with what he saw. He will now have the peace of mind knowing that he can call on anyone of his second-string to step-up to the plate should injuries develop in the knock-out stage of the tournament.

Man of the Match: Jerry Collins displayed some sound leadership and performed consistently throughout the game. It would have been tempting to award the man-of-the-match to Joe Rokocoko for his moments of brilliance. Nick Evans was also a candidate with his 33 points on the afternoon. But Collins was the only All Black that stood out for the whole game - until he was substited of course.

Moment of the Match: We talked about Portugal's try before, which is a clear winner, but the 29th minute Aaron Mauger try was absolutely brilliant and could have been scored against any of the world's leading rugby nations. It all started with a good clean All Black line-out. Thereafter we witnessed some superb handling from Chris Masoe, who off-loaded to Jerry Collins. Collins off-loaded to Mauger, who finished in style. A try worth watching over and over again.

Villain of the Match: There was no villain really. it was a clean game of rugby.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries:
Rokocoko 2, Toeava, Williams, Mauger 2, Collins, Masoe, Hore, Leonard, Evans, Ellis, Smith 2, MacDonald, Hayman
Cons: Evans 14

For Portugal:
Try:
Cordeiro
Con: Pinto
Pen: Pinto
Drop goal: Malheiro

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: 16 Anton Oliver, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Carl Hayman, 19 Rodney So'oialo, 20 Keven Mealamu, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Leon MacDonald.

Portugal: 15 Pedro Leal, 14 António Aguilar, 13 Miguel Portela, 12 Diogo Mateus, 11 Pedro Carvalho, 10 Gonçalo Malheiro, 9 Luis Pissarra, 8 Vasco Uva (c), 7 Diogo Coutinho, 6 Paulo Murinello, 5 Gonçalo Uva, 4 Marcello d'Orey, 3 Ruben Spachuck, 2 João Correia, 1 Andre Silva.
Replacements: 16 Rui Cordeiro, 17 Joaquim Ferreira, 18 David Penalva, 19 Tiago Girão, 20 João Uva, 21 José Pinto, 22 Duarte Cardoso Pinto.

Referee: Chris White
Touch judges: Hugh Watkins, Marius Jonker
Television match official: Dave Pearson
Assessor: Bob Francis