In the Rugby World Cup semi final last year, his searing break and magical flicked offload to Ma'a Nonu set up the only try of the game, as the All Blacks secured their right to play in the final. Once more last night, he produced the goods when it mattered most too, despite a quiet Super 15 by his own impeccably high standards. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans must be sick of the sight of him. How can you restrict that kind of brilliance? The only hope is to subdue.
In many ways the performances of the two sides in the first Bledisloe game of 2012 were reflected in the two full backs on show. While Kurtley Beale was often to be found fumbling his way round the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, missing two try saving tackles on the All Black wingers and knocking on a simple pass in his own 22, Dagg had the opposition at his mercy.
|Dagg gave the All Blacks early momentum in Sydney|
Three moments in particular will be imprinted on the memory though; his step outside Beale on the left touchline as he managed to off-balance his counterpart on the way to dotting down for the first try of the game, his quick hands in setting up Corey Jane on the opposite wing and his incisive break down the middle of the park, as he gracefully split apart the Wallabies defence with apparent ease.
His attacking enthusiasm was infectious for the whole team, even if Steve Hansen's men weren't always able to take full advantage. It is ominous for the opposition, once the World Champion truly click into gear.
Israel Dagg's qualities last night lay not only with the ball in hand though. It was fitting that New Zealand effectively secured victory, when his long punt followed by a strong chase, pushed Wallabies' utility back Adam Ashley Cooper over his own try line for a 5 metre scrum.
That simple but effective play surrendered any chance of Australian victory and also gave the All Blacks a chance to hammer a further nail into the Wallabies coffin, after an indiscretion in the ensuing scum allowed Dan Carter to chip over a penalty and deny Australia a potentially vital losing bonus point (by finishing within 7 points).
The 27-19 victory in Sydney reaffirmed the All Blacks' status as the world's best rugby union team.
While it wasn't a knockout blow, it also helped influence the ongoing argument of 'who is the world's premier full back' too. One could be left in no doubt who won the first round of 2012.
Israel Dagg 1, Kurtley Beale 0.
We salute you Izzy!
What were your thoughts on the game?
Would you make any changes in personnel (for either side) in the next round?