The June se­ries looked close, but were the All Blacks in fact a fair bit bet­ter than Eng­land?

STEIN­LAGER SE­RIES RE­VIEWED

NZ Rugby World - - Contents -

Se­ries Over­view

The re­sults don’t quite tell the story – the gap be­tween these two sides is rel­a­tively sub­stan­tial. The longer that went on, the more that be­came clear.

By the third test, Eng­land were flap­ping in the wind like a torn flag.

The first test dis­torted the pic­ture be­cause the All Blacks were, by their own ad­mis­sion, aw­ful at Eden Park. Their ba­sic skills de­serted them – they couldn’t pass or catch, they ran dud lines and they were all over the place. And yet they still won.

The sec­ond test was not re­ally a one point test: the All Blacks blew Eng­land away in the third quar­ter with a three- try burst that left Eng­land gasp­ing. It was deadly rugby that Eng­land were powerless to stop and two late tries by the vis­i­tors gave the wrong im­pres­sion.

The third test was prob­a­bly a bet­ter re­flec­tion of where these two sides are – the All Blacks scored four first half tries and it could have been more. Eng­land couldn’t cope with the power and pace of the All Black tight five: they were knocked off their feet in the col­li­sions and the games were too quick for them.

Player of the Se­ries

Brodie Re­tal­lick

Tempt­ing to say it should have been Ben Smith – he was bril­liant in games two and three, or Savea who scored four tries in the sec­ond two tests. But the foun­da­tion of each vic­tory was laid by the tight five so it has to be one of them re­warded. And no one did more or worked harder than Re­tal­lick. He won li­ne­out ball, he cleaned out, he tack­led, he scrum­maged and he thun­dered around the field. He was sen­sa­tion­ally good – has a huge en­gine.

Try of the Se­ries

The first All Black try in the sec­ond test was the pick of the eight they scored in the se­ries. It came when it didn’t ap­pear there was too much on early in the sec­ond half un­til a neat pass saw Aaron Cru­den loop­ing round into the mid­field. He pressed the ac­cel­er­a­tor on an arc­ing run, scorched past some English for­wards and then threaded a mir­a­cle pass to Ju­lian Savea who caught it at full tilt. He drew Mike Brown and slipped the per­fect pass to the sup­port­ing Ben Smith.

What the All Blacks Learned

That they are most po­tent when they play Ben Smith at full­back and Ju­lian Savea on the left wing. Sam White­lock and Brodie Re­tal­lick are on their way to­wards be­ing con­sid­ered the two best locks in world rugby. That Dane Coles has ben­e­fited from adding four ki­los to his frame and is an in­ter­na­tional class hooker in all facets. They can make good trac­tion with their driv­ing maul and it’s worth de­vel­op­ing. Time in Ja­pan has been se­ri­ously good for Jerome Kaino who was im­pres­sively phys­i­cal at both No 8 and blind­side. Malakai Fek­i­toa is the heir ap­par­ent to Con­rad Smith at cen­tre. That they have a tight five who can hold their own with the best in the world. That their work un­der the high ball could im­prove de­spite them be­ing recog­nised as the best in the world.

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