What a difference a year makes. Last season, in Division 2, the All Blacks had a tough time against sides like Blackheath. Now it just seems all too easy. The 61-15 win was every bit as comprehensive as it sounds. If this were football then a cup match between a side rooted to the bottom of the Premiership and one in the play off spots of the Championship would be considered a fair bet for your pools coupons. The pundits might not even think of it as too much of an upset if the lower league side won. But in rugby the league you play in is everything and Saturday's result just proves how much the All Blacks have improved.
With ten tries virtually everyone got in on the act, but I'll single out Sam Alford's first as the best. The scrum half spotted the gap and went for it. I don't think he could believe it when, forty yards later, he was still running untouched.
Saturday was also remarkable for the appearance of one Dhani Jones - superstar linebacker for the Cincinnatti Bengals NFL franchise who is currently touring the world making a documentary for US TV. The concept is that he gives lots of different sports a go. So he called up Blackheath (one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world) and asked if he could play. They said yes (could you imagine a football side doing that?) and promised him 10 minutes at the end of the game.
To be fair to the lad, he had only had a couple of training sessions and so he fitted in quite well. His job in the NFL is tackling. Unless it's by accident, he doesn't touch the ball. So reports from training about his performance had him tackling high, blocking (not allowed here) and not having a clue what to do when he got hold of the ball.
But he made one crunching tackle in midfield and played fairly well at flanker although at each set piece his team mates had to tell him what his role was.
Apparently he was a great bloke to have around and he couldn't quite believe the physical demands on a rugby player. Above all - well done to Blackheath for taking him on.
Still unbeaten in '08!
Pics (top to bottom): Sam Alford burst through for his first try; Wayne Reed gets tackled (slightly) high; Dhani Jones; Jones does his job in the lineout. All pictures are copyright Alex Folkes/Fishnik.com. Any unauthorised use is prohibited and will be followed up.