WHAT WE LEARNED FROM AN OLD-FASHIONED MIDWEEKER
Let’s kick it off with the game itself, the second non-test match of this year’s northern tour.
Some will see it like the good old days, when midweek matches were the norm and social media didn’t exist. But do we really want fewer tests?
At least yesterday’s 28-23 win against a French XV in Lyon was absorbing, unlike the more festivalfeel which came with last week’s match against the Barbarians.
What is it with the All Blacks and conceding tries via intercepted passes?
Midfielder Ngani Laumape was the latest All Black to have a pass picked off and taken the other way, when French flyer Gabriel Lacroix nabbed his pass intended for Liam Squire in the first half.
Squire would have had his second try if Laumape’s floater found him, but Lacroix was all over it and bolted 60 odd metres to score.
Minus perhaps conceding via a charged down kick, there is no worse way to cough up points. It’s something Hansen is no doubt getting a tad tired of.
We saw Lima Sopoaga hand Wallaby Reece Hodge an intercept try in the lost Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane last month, while Damian McKenzie gift-wrapped the Wallabies an early 7-0 lead in Bledisloe II in Dunedin, where Israel Folau was the beneficiary.
Barring an injury to Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara, halfback Tawera KerrBarlow is likely done wearing the All Blacks jersey. Bound for French Top 14 side La Rochelle, the 26-year-old signed off with 69 minutes yesterday.
So who will be the third-string No 9 as the All Blacks build towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan?
Crusaders halfback Mitchell Drummond got his first taste of All Blacks rugby when he replaced KerrBarlow, and is clearly one of the halfbacks Hansen has his eyes on.
One test All Black Brad Weber (broken leg) missed the Chiefs’ 2017 Super Rugby campaign, but played for Hawke’s Bay in the Mitre 10 Cup and has featured for the NZ Maori on their northern tour.
He’s another candidate, as is Drummond’s Crusaders team-mate Bryn Hall and Blues and Counties No 9 Augustine Pulu.
Just days after Hansen took a swipe at his team for giving up ‘‘silly’’ penalties in their 38-18 win against France, a string of second-half penalties almost cost them dearly in Lyon.
British referee Luke Pearce sure did get stuck into the All Blacks. Some were fair, others not so much.
Agree or disagree with the yellow card he dished Jack Goodhue for an ‘‘early tackle’’ in the 68th minute, it’s clear the whistleblower couldn’t help but be swayed by the vocal crowd and the big screen operator at Groupama Stadium.
Hansen made it clear what he thought of some of the decisions, which included a penalty to the All Blacks being reversed after Atu Moli was deemed to have obstructed a defender, and the fact the big screen operator was influencing the game.
Forget the result. Giving a bunch of fringe players a decent run was really what this fixture was all about.
Minus the late yellow card, Goodhue didn’t look out of place and there should be no doubts regarding his future in the national side.
Drummond, first-five eighth Richie Mo’unga, hooker Asafo Aumua, wing Matt Duffie, prop Atu Moli and flanker Dillon Hunt were other fresh faces to get a run, and Hansen was full of praise for them post-match.
It wasn’t just the fresh faces who benefited. Players such as Lima Sopoaga, Tuipulotu, Squire and Ardie Savea got some much-needed minutes.