Pumas show All Blacks
HONESTY call. Seven tests for the All Blacks this season so far. Just two you’d call right up to scratch, and one walkover, against an underpowered Samoan side.
Last night in New Plymouth the All Blacks were such red hot favourites they were at one cent on the dollar at the TAB for a win.
Playing the Pumas, whipped by 18 and 22 points by the Springboks so far in the rugby championship, the game in Taranaki shaped as more like a training run for the All Blacks than a fully fledged test.
Oops. If the first test against the Wallabies in Dunedin was a shock, the first 40 last night was straight out weird. The second spell was, of course, a huge improvement, but until halftime there were bizarre elements you don’t expect to see in a team with the terrific talents and track record the All Blacks have.
As, for example, Beauden Barrett struggling to get the ball 10 metres from successive kick offs.
Or the obsession with stab kicks through, that spread from Barrett to, of all people, Kieran Read. It worked like a charm for Anton Lienert-Brown’s try in the 18th minute, but all the vast majority of the little kicks did was turn the ball over.
Or the number of times the Pumas were able to disrupt the breakdowns by the simple process of arriving in greater numbers, and with much greater intensity.
But the main worry now is that the All Blacks’ great advantage over every other team in the world from the time they marched to victory in the 2011 world cup, an unmatched skill level, threatened to desert them.
Just why that is will be keeping the All Black coaching team awake at night. Because while the Nehe Milner-Skudder try that started the game was executed perfectly, the Israel Dagg try was, to be blunt, basically fluky, when a Barrett pass bounced up for Dagg.
In the past the All Blacks have not only been Rolls Royce smooth with passing attacks but accurate and daring in the air.
Last night Damian McKenzie was fearless, but largely unsuccessful, and too long for comfort the New Zealand passing was laboured.
Full credit, channelling Sean Fitzpatrick, to the All Blacks’ determination which brought them roaring back into the game, a pattern which has been a feature for a decade now.
And for all the clenched teeth moments in the test for the All Blacks, there were some very bright spots too.
Mark down one as the almost fairytale return of Nehe Milner-Skudder, who is almost a throwback to a past age when wings weren’t built like flankers, but relied on speed, shifty feet, and street smarts to make a mark. To meet Milner-Skudder
Damian McKenzie scores in the second half against Argentina.