Skip­per ‘stepped up again’

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - By Gre­gor Paul

Trust was the key to this All Blacks vic­tory. They would not have won with­out it and in the last three min­utes, they showed in­cred­i­ble trust in them­selves and their in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive abil­ity.

It's never easy for a team to know how to tackle the last three min­utes of a test when they need a score to win. Is it time to be bold or con­ser­va­tive?

Could the All Blacks have kicked long af­ter Kurt­ley Beale's try had put the Wal­la­bies one point in front, and hoped from there, deep within en­emy ter­ri­tory, to ex­ert enough pres­sure to win a penalty? It was a safe op­tion and came with the ex­tra temp­ta­tion of know­ing how dom­i­nant their scrum had been.

If they could force just one set piece, it might be enough for them to then use it to win a match-win­ning penalty.

But that way they would also have been con­ced­ing pos­ses­sion and it would have al­lowed the Wal­la­bies to have eaten up the clock.

The higher risk op­tion was to kick short and con­test. The dan­ger with that was giv­ing up pos­ses­sion higher up the field. But the re­ward was that they may win the ball back and con­trol their destiny.

It was a big call for cap­tain Kieran Read to make, but stand­ing un­der the posts with the score­board at 29-28, he told his troops they had to trust their skill set and trust they could ex­e­cute what they needed un­der pres­sure.

Be­ing brave would be the way to glory, reck­oned Read. It was maybe the big­gest, or most as­tute at least, de­ci­sion of his cap­taincy to date.

“We spoke about get­ting the ball back so I said to the kicker put it on the money and I'll chase and try to win it back,” said Read. “It was just a case of us play­ing once we got that ball back. I was pretty happy about that.”

There was more to it than that, not the least of which was the re­spon­si­bil­ity Read took to lead by ex­am­ple. Just as he did late in the third test against the Lions, he won the ball in the air and then two phases later, he made the crit­i­cal line­break that saw him storm into space, turn it in­side to TJ Per­e­nara who then re­leased the fly­ing Beau­den Bar­rett.

The All Blacks trusted their skills, they trusted their cap­tain and they won be­cause of it.

“Thanks to a lot of com­po­sure,” said coach Steve Hansen when asked what had got his side over the line. “The guy to my left [Read] re­ally stood up in the last four or five min­utes. [He] took the kick off, made the break and was well sup­ported by the other lead­ers.

“A lot of sides would have chucked it in. They didn't and they got the re­ward for it.”

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika saw it slightly dif­fer­ently: “At 77 min­utes we were in front and we should have sealed that game off”.

All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane takes on two Wal­la­bies dur­ing last night’s nail-bit­ing Bledis­loe en­counter in Dunedin.

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