All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup runneth over
All Blacks retain Bledisloe, but where to now?
Apologies to Mark Twain, but paraphrasing his famous quote regarding false reports of his death seems most appropriate this weekend following a huge performance from the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday evening.
Topically speaking (we are on the run up to a general election after all) they say a week is a long time in politics, well, a somewhat shell-shocked Ewen McKenzie with think a week in international rugby union is like a geological age.
I always had confidence that Steve Hansen and his team would turn things around, and so it proved. The glass is not only half full but the barman is filling it up nicely thank-you.
The All Blacks demonstrated that they are at their ferocious best when under pressure. They showed it last season at Ellis Park and did so again at Eden Park.
It is difficult to single out a real man of the match simply because there were so many stellar performers. There was the usual genius of Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (despite his 11th minute transgression) and Conrad Smith but it was the performances of Beauden Barrett and Ryan Crotty that were particularly pleasing. Even though Crotty only lasted until half-time, I think he showed enough to suggest there is depth after all in the 12 and 13 channel. The timing of some of his offloads were sublime.
Barrett? What can I say? I'm not just talking about his miracle tackle on Israel Folau, but his ability to transition seamlessly from position to position as injuries on the pitch determined shows there is an old head on those young shoulders.
I would also like to make special mention of Aaron Cruden and Brodie Retallick. Recently I have been of the opinion that Beauden Barrett should perhaps get the nod from Hansen to start at number 10. I take that back after Saturday night. I think that was the best I have ever seen from Cruden in an All Black jersey.
His distribution was both clinical and more importantly, varied. This left his opposing number (whoever that was as the Wallbies' coaching staff can't seem to work that out either) utterly confused at times.
Retallick was just a monster out there and was only denied a try, I believe, by Monsieur Poite's inexplicable decision not to go to the TMO. As it turned out justice was done as the try was only delayed by a minute or so when the resulting scrum led to the penalty try.
So the Bledisloe is locked away for another year. I think the most significant things to come out of these two tests are the establishment of Dane Coles in the starting hooker role and the knowledge that behind the old partnership of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith in the centre there is real quality back-up in Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa. It bodes well for the future.
No doubt Hansen will briefly enjoy the moment before analysing areas he sees that need improvement. Discipline is one and that must start with the leader.
I'm sure also Hansen will look to the brief period where the defensive wall was broken twice in a short spell, possibly related to a loss of momentum when a few replacements were made. More a systems issue I think rather than one of individual error. Thankfully it made little difference in the end.
It did however induce Michael Hooper into a little bit of post match delusion when he suggested that it was a close finish.
Which brings us on to the subject of the Wallabies. What of them? Well, it's case of returning to the clichéd theme of the beginning of this piece...back to the drawing-board Ewen, back to the drawing-board.
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