The overriding impression was of a bunch of players in a club team’s first match of the season and playing as if they had just met each other at training on Thursday night. –Neil Smith on the All Blacks last Saturday

History is made

By Roger Childs

It’s been a long time coming, however, the breakthrough happened on Saturday in Sydney. The Pumas 25-15 first time win over the All Backs was well deserved. The teams have played 30 times since 1985 and there was a 21-21 draw that year. However, the pattern has usually been for comfortable wins to New Zealand, with an amazing 93-8 victory at Athletic Park in 1997.

The win to the Argentines at the weekend came as a surprise because the team hadn’t played for over a year; they had had players with Covid-19 and there was two weeks of quarantining in Australia required before Saturday’s match.

Maybe the All Backs underestimated the opposition. It was probably the best side New Zealand could put on the field, but it was beaten in all phases of the game. First- five Nicolás Sánchez, scored all 25 of the Puma’s points.

Good for World rugby

The All Blacks have dominated world rugby over recent decades, however at last year’s World Cup England beat them comprehensively in the semi –final and South Africa went on to take the big prize.

The dominance of one or two teams or a few individuals in sports can be a bit of a bore and fans enjoy more even competitions. Australia and New Zealand have long dominated world netball, so it was a breath of fresh air when the English Roses won the gold medal at the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Soul searching for the All Blacks

There are big question marks over new coach Ian Foster. He was not a great success with the Chiefs, unlike Wallabies coach Dave Rennie who took the franchise to two Super Rugby titles. The Aussies eagerly grabbed Rennie, however many felt that successful Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was the best bet for the All Blacks. Foster had been Steve Hansen’s assistant and that obviously counted in his favour.

In Saturday’s game there were a number of miss-steps from Foster. He needs to realise that Jordie Barrett is a full back not a right wing, and that Reiko Ioane is not a test-class centre. It goes against the grain to replace one of your top players in a match, but if he’s not on form it needs to happen. Richie Mo’unga made a bad mistake late in the first half when he kicked the ball dead instead of over the touchline 10m from the Puma’s line. This denied the All Blacks the chance to score from a lineout. He should have be replaced by Beauden Barrett at first five and Jordie should have gone to full back. Iaone is best as a winger and he could have come on in that position.

The ABs should also have changed their tactics in the second half. The Puma had tackled brilliantly with rush defence in the first 40 minutes, so the New Zealanders should have run their backs deeper, experimented with short kicks over the top and reduced the amount of mid-field forward barging. Overall the All Blacks were too predictable, kicked too much ball way and lacked their usual flare. Captain Sam Cane needed to adjust the game plan to counter the highly successful Puma tactics. Many feel that Sam Whitelock, who led the South to  victory in the inter-Island match, would be a better bet as skipper.

Two weeks on …

The All Blacks get a break next weekend and will meet Argentina again in a fortnight. This time their opponents will not be an unknown quantity and lessons will have been learned from Saturday’s drubbing. A much better performance is to be expected.