The All Blacks shook off some customary early-season rust against a plucky Wales outfit at Eden Park on Saturday night, surging to a 39-21 victory with three late tries.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Early in the match, the Highlanders strike weapon was the worst player on the field (minus his 18th-minute try). He made several errors and looked like a run-around Fijian winger playing for his local club rugby team. Although it was only his fourth Test, Naholo will be disappointed in the way he started the game.
Don’t kick it, pass it! After Julian Savea scored a magnificent try off an Aaron Cruden cross-field kick, the kicking disease crept into the All Blacks’ game. It became a default setting when nothing went to plan or the play broke down. There was one point where the All Blacks kicked the ball three times in a row inside Wales’ 22-metre line instead of just taking it in and starting again. It looked to me like five Super Rugby teams playing to a Highlanders game-plan. With four Highlanders in the backline this wasn’t a bad idea in theory, but they just couldn’t quite pull it off effectively.
Kiwis do it every year, every time for the first Test of the season. They expect the All Blacks to beat every team by 50 no matter what time of the year, no matter what team they play. The All Blacks always struggle with their first Test of the year. Always! The New Zealand public just expect too much, and in return, they get let down.
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
Naholo was amazing when he was on. He had the most carries (17) most tackle busts (9) and the most lines breaks (5) and finished with two tries. His pace was something to behold and his ability to run around – or over the top of – his opposite player was surreal. Every time he touched the ball (and actually caught it) he looked extremely dangerous. He favoured to go on the outside of players most of the game. The Wales team picked up on that late in the game and he wasn’t as effective. Naholo managed to find his way in the middle of the field a few times, however, and made a few gains, with the obvious one his try off a quick tap from Aaron Smith, which gave the All Blacks back the lead.
— Rugby Heaven (@NZRugbyHeaven) June 12, 2016
Although they didn’t have a fantastic game overall, they played the full 80 minutes. They didn’t give up, they didn’t shy away from their game-plan and that’s why they got the win. There are many reasons they are the No.1 team in the world and playing the full 80 is one of the most important.