Randell: Read's performance highlight of test

TAINE RANDELL
Last updated 22:25 21/06/2014
All Black No 8 Kieran Read
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
BACK IN BLACK: All Black No 8 Kieran Read taking on the English line in Hamilton.
Patrick Tuipulotu, Julian Savea, TJ Perenara
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Patrick Tuipulotu (left) and TJ Perenara (right) congratulate Julian Savea after one of his three tries.

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OPINION: Kieran Read's performance was the highlight of tonight's test. It was fantastic to see him back and that first-half performance by the All Blacks was technically as good as there has been for a long while.

This has been a competitive and enjoyable series where the English put the All Blacks under a heap of pressure with their rushing defence.

The All Blacks didn't really counter that in the first two tests, but they did in the first half last night with skip passes and that enabled the players to come around and do loops and put the English defence in trouble.

Also, it was one of the best mauling games I've seen by the All Blacks team in over a decade.

Those two aspects were why it was a fantastic first 40 minutes. Read was at the heart of it and what he brings to the game has been missing. 

Contrast that with the second half, where all of a sudden the All Blacks were just playing left to right. That allowed the English team to come in with their rush defence and the All Blacks set themselves up as targets.

It's no surprise that England won the second half. But the biggest concern for the All Blacks would be that the English team had a better bench.

Their guys had more impact and it's a concern that they seemed to have more depth.

Australia had a big win over France this afternoon and the Springboks beat Wales last weekend, so going into the Rugby Championship, how do the big three stand?

The All Blacks have struggled against their opposition and are arguably on a downward curve as the Wallabies are on their best run for a while, and the South Africans put to the sword a competent Welsh team, so it's going to be game on.

The All Blacks have equaled the record of consecutive wins and that's going to add more spice when we play Australia in Sydney in New Zealand's next test. It's against a resurgent Australia, who'll be feeling confident going into it.

Finally, big ups to England, they made this a great series and that's what we'd prefer to see, a hard-fought series rather than three tests against the same opposition where we put shedloads of points on them each time.

Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain. 

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