Hore's cheap shot mars classy Kiwis display
STEVE Hansen has done little wrong since taking the reins of New Zealand's all- conquering world champions.
But in the bowels of the Millennium Stadium late on Saturday night, his 'defence' of hooker Andrew Hore for the challenge that ended Bradley Davies's match before it had barely started wasn't his finest hour.
"To be honest, I saw a quick replay of it and I thought he was going to clean out a Welshman in front of him. It looked like he went to get him out of the way and something's clearly happened. It is unfortunate," he said.
Others, including 72,000 seated around him, saw it very differently.
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With the incident replayed on the big screens as a dazed Davies received treatment, those fans witnessed a player with 73 caps and a World Cup winners' medal swinging his forearm into the face of an unsuspecting opponent in a cowardly act that has no place on a rugby field.
In an autumn series of matches that has already put the International Rugby Board's disciplinary process firmly in the spotlight, if Hore doesn't have the book thrown at him this week serious questions will need to be answered.
When asked for his opinion of the incident, Wales coach Warren Gatland played it safe: "I think you can make your own conclusions.
"I will leave it to the citing commissioner.
"But it doesn't look good. You don't usually see the All Blacks as a side who resort to cheap shots."
Hore, who was officially cited last night, has become the second All Black of this tour to be summoned before the beak.
Flanker Adam Thomson was handed a ridiculously lenient one-match ban for a stamp on the head of Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch following the win at Murrayfield earlier this month with the IRB later taking the unprecedented step of appealing the decision. Thomson's punishment was doubled to two weeks.
As a former policemen Hansen will know all too well that if Hore had been caught on camera 'cleaning out' in a city centre street on a Saturday night, he would be facing serious assault charges.
The rugby world will watch intently to see what punishment is dished out and you sense the game's authorities will be as much in the dock as the 34-year-old Highlander.
It is a shame that Hore's act has cast some shadow over this latest All Black victory — one that takes New Zealand's unbeaten Test run to 20 matches and extends their 59-year dominance over Wales.
From the moment flanker Liam Messam crossed wide out after a sweeping counter-attack from Israel Dagg and Julian Savea midway through the first half, there was a depressing inevitability about proceedings — even if Wales will take consolation from a three-to-two final try count.
Trailing 23-0 at half-time, the home camp will feel many of the wounds were self-inflicted, particularly the baffling decision to opt for attacking line-outs instead of going for goal in the early exchanges.
"Crazy," was Hansen's verdict of the Welsh game-plan.
"I mean, either they didn't think we were going to score many points or they felt they could score often.
"I guess they could vindicate what they were trying to do with the all-in line-out which they will be happy with.
"I don't know if their kicker would have kicked the goals but there's a thing about having points on the table. It makes the game a lot tougher and it applies pressure.
"But you'll have to ask 'The Messiah' when he comes in what he thinks!"
Only England now stand in the way of the All Blacks going through the year unbeaten.
On the back of their World Cup triumph they have put distance between themselves and the rest, constantly raising the bar, while others have dipped below it.
However, asked if he felt this current side could be considered the greatest ever, Hansen produced a sidestep on a par with anything the outstanding Dagg had unleashed earlier that evening.
"Who knows? What I love about this team is that they work hard at what they do," he said. "They are very good at staying humble and I am proud of that.
"It is for other people to judge whether we are the greatest or not.
"You can strive to be perfect, but in my time on the planet I have never seen anything perfect.
"We are trying to get better every time we play on a given Saturday, if you don't you will get passed."
And with that the All Blacks of 2012 were on their way, having handed Wales a bloody nose again.