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All Blacks propped up by front row fire power

Fotopress

nzpa     29 Nov 2004     Fotopress

Helensville farmer Tony Woodcock proved a host of critics wrong by leading a superior scrummaging performance from loosehead prop as well as standing out in general play.

Tighthead prop Carl Hayman and Otago teammate and hooker Anton Oliver were equally impressive, helping their team establish the edge at the coalface which translated into dominance in every other position on the field tonight.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry singled out Woodcock, 23, for praise in just his sixth Test.

"He's a young prop playing against probably the most experienced front row in the world, the best scrum in the world, we thought," Henry said.

"The tight five played exceptionally well and set a foundation for the rest of them."

The quietly-spoken Woodcock wouldn't agree with suggestions his 61-minute performance had secured the No 1 jersey for himself in future Tests following the departure to French rugby Castres of former prop Kees Meeuws.

"I've taken a small step, there's a long way to go," Woodcock said.

"I thought the whole scrum went really well. It was a great game actually, it was tough up front early on."

Both Woodcock and Hayman were bemused by the high attrition rate of the French front row, which resulted in uncontested scrums for the last half hour after props Sylvain Marconnet and Pieter de Villiers were forced from the game with injury.

The All Blacks pair agreed it had impacted negatively on the team performance.

"When the scrums were depowered it went like a game of touch rugby," Hayman said, laughing off suggestions the French deliberately got both props off to reduce New Zealand's effectiveness.

"I'm sure they were genuine injuries, it was just one of those things.

"The game went pretty weak, it was all over the show."

A flippant Hayman said reducing the workload for props in tight play can be "a bit dangerous", pointing to the spectacular 40m burst by reserve Greg Somerville -- who replaced Woodcock -- which set up the final try by reserve winger Ma'a Nonu.

Hayman said Woodcock had every right to be proud of his game.

"He's definitely done his time on the woodwork this year, It's great for him to get out there and be playing some good footy," Hayman said.

"We knew it was going to be pretty confrontational, that's what we'd prepared for all week.

"The rub of the green went with us and we ended up getting on top of them."