Lions tour: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen satisfied, but says job only half-done
Battle won, but not the war. The All Blacks are not reaching for any champagne bottles just yet, with coach Steve Hansen emphasising that a fine first-test effort against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland is worth nothing on its own.
Hansen was rapt with his team's clinical display in a 30-15 opening test victory at Eden Park, and especially an empty-the-tank effort from his skipper Kieran Read. But that was about as far as the ra-ra stuff went, with the coach emphasising afterwards they were only halfway to their key objective.
"The job isn't done, is it," said Hansen afterwards, while also confirming that midfielder Ryan Crotty will be a likely casualty for the second test with a pulled hamstring. Fullback Ben Smith is also in doubt with a head knock. "It's a three-match series, and to win it you've got to win two of them.
"Winning one gives us an advantage, but so many times in sport the winning team gets knocked over the next week. This team has always worked on the mantra we want to be better, and that's what we strive to do.
* All Blacks overcome Lions in first test
* As it happened: All Blacks v Lions - first test
* Napier: ABs land emphatic blow
* Reason: All Blacks and Lions deliver test for the ages
* Key moments in AB win over Lions
* Player Ratings: All Blacks v Lions test
"We'll go away and enjoy tonight, because we should ... a lot of hard work went in to getting that win. Then we'll come together in the morning and start preparation for next week [in Wellington]. They're a good team and if we don't prepare properly we'll get second, and then its 1-1 and we're back here trying to win the thing.
"We've got to make sure we give ourselves every chance to win it in Wellington, and that means preparing with no stone unturned."
But Hansen did laud the effort of Read in leading his team with a 76-minute virtuoso display, and also the two-try performance of youngster Rieko Ioane, in just his third test, and first start.
"The team executed the plan very, very well. It wasn't perfect but it is only our second test for the year, and we'll build from that. I thought [Read] was pretty outstanding, though he's a bit grumpy I didn't take him off earlier, but 75 minutes is probably not a bad night's work for him after seven weeks holiday.
Asked if it was a Richie McCaw-type performance from his skipper, Hansen said: "They're two different people but to be the All Blacks captain you've got to have a lot of character and courage and be a fierce warrior.
"Richie showed that over a number of years, now it's Reado's turn to lead this side. There was no hesitation in asking him to step up and do the role we wanted because that's what an All Blacks captain does, and he did it magnificently."
Read, of course, was not about to wallow in any deep pools of satisfaction.
"I go out there and I want to play as best I can and lead the team with my performance. Tonight felt pretty good, but it did take a lot of moments in that game. It could have gone either way at some stages, but the guts and character we showed to hang in there and when we got our opportunities I guess we took a couple in that second half."
On Ioane, and in particular his world-class second try in which he left Lions wing Eliot Daly for dead down the left touch, Hansen said: "There were a lot of question marks about the young fella ... was he ready? That second try, not many people would have scored it, because the guys chasing him are very good players and very quick. He was just lucky enough to be a little quicker."
The All Blacks coach also felt his team had won the tactical battle against that rushing Lions defensive line which they had thought so long and hard about combating.
"We felt we could hurt them if we could get in there [behind, close to the ruck], and that it would take away their line-speed which would then let us play some rugby. To their credit they were in the game. The score looks like it was easy, but it wasn't.
"I thought the Lions played magnificently. When they can score tries like that first one, you're sitting there thinking they should probably do that a bit more often because that was probably one of the best test tries I've ever seen."