'Choking boofheads' feel the heat

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The Independent Online

The mood was grim on both sides of the Tasman Sea yesterday as Australia and New Zealand struggled to come to terms with their respective eliminations from the World Cup.

For the All Blacks, the tournament favourites, vanquished by France in a shock 20-18 quarter-final defeat in Cardiff, it was yet another reminder of their inability to rise to the big occasion. For the Wallabies, who went down 12-10 to England in Marseilles, it was a much rued missed opportunity to avenge their defeat on home soil by the English in the 2003 World Cup final.

For fans in the two rugby-mad nations, it was Black Sunday. In Australia commentators poured scorn on the national team's performance. The Sydney Morning Herald called the team "error-ridden", while the retiring coach, John Connolly, admitted it was Australia's "worst performance" of the World Cup.

Roy Masters, a veteran rugby commentator, said that Australia were "no challenge at all to a very resolute England". Every time they received the ball, they kicked it back to England. "It was sheer stupidity," he said. But if Australians felt gloomy yesterday, New Zealanders were suicidal. Colin Meads, the former All Black, said yesterday: "We've got this monkey on our back that we choke at the World Cup always, and that's just going to rear its head again in a huge build-up to the next World Cup."

Murray Deakin, a rugby commentator, said: "We are a dumb rugby nation. We don't play the big matches well. We were a bunch of boofheads playing out there ... against a French team that isn't that good. On the big occasions we choke."

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