Here comes Nonu the goal-kicker

Sat, 09 Aug 2014 09:47
Large ma a nonu ball

All Black coach Steve Hansen lifted the lid on a seemingly trivial statistic in New Zealand's final Rugby Championship pre-seasson hit-out.

All Black coach Steve Hansen lifted the lid on a seemingly trivial statistic in New Zealand's final Rugby Championship pre-seasson hit-out.

Veteran centre Ma'a Nonu took the kicks at goal in the All Blacks' warm-up game against North Harbour at Albany's North Harbour Stadium on Friday.

Even with flyhalf Aaron Cruden was on the field, Nonu slotted three conversions and it was a 'serious' experiment.

The results were decidedly mixed - he landed three of seven, and missed one from a very handy position.

But Hansen said there was a reason Nonu was given the chance, saying he may be needed as a back-up one day.

"It's possible something could have a situation where Aaron [Cruden] could still play and we needed a kicker," Hansen said.

"It was just an opportunity to try it. Ma'a didn't do too bad."

Barrett took the goal-kicking for the All Blacks in the encounter with Northland game, but Nonu did create one try in an unusual way with his boot - a crossfield kick caught by hooker Keven Mealamu, hardly the tallest player in the team.

"Yeah, it was lovely wasn't it?" Hansen said.

"I don't think we'd want to have him against anybody too tall, but he got up and did the job."

The All Blacks, minus Crusaders players - resting after the Super Rugby Final - easily accounted for North Harbour 41-5 in their first 40 minutes, before a more challenging 19-7 win over Northland in their second 40 minutes.

They now shift their focus to their shot at history next weekend.

If they can win their Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies, they will claim the world record for the most successive Test victories - which they currently share with South Africa, at 17 apiece.

The current 17-game winning streak began with a 23-13 victory over France in Auckland on June 8 last year.

Conditions were far from perfect in Albany on Friday, but the All Blacks at least had the chance to blow out the rust as they attempt to claim a record-breaking 18th straight win.

"It is what sets teams apart and what people talk about in the future and teams in the past, those good teams people remember, so that's what we want to be, that's what we want to do," said Kieran Read.

But the side is well aware of history with the Wallabies, costing them a chance at the record in 2010 and 2012.

"If we can take it to the Aussies, then it will be nice to knock that off," said Sam Cane.

The Waratahs' Super Rugby title will give the Wallabies, who themselves are on a seven-game winning streak, an extra boost, the loss still fresh in the minds of the Crusaders players.

"You are disappointed with what happened then, so you take a couple of days to reflect," said Read.

Hansen said it was obvious a number of his side hadn't played for a while, but he was happy with some of the flair on display.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries in the first 40 against North Harbour, but were forced to work much harder in the second half against Northland.

"Northland were really willing, which was great, really physical, and we had to spend quite a bit of time defending, so it tested us, which was great," said Hansen.

More importantly for Hansen, there were no serious injuries - good news in the wake of the revelation before the match that veteran prop Tony Woodcock is to be sidelined for the rest of the year with shoulder surgery.

Hansen was pleased with the 'hit-out' and praised the Northland side who fronted for the second of the halves.

"They were really willing which was great, very physical and we had to spend a lot of time defending. It was exactly what we needed"

Sources: ONE News & 3 News