Skipper ‘stepped up again’
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.