Player Ratings: Sweet revenge
OPINION: The All Blacks have all but won the Tri-Nations after defeating the Pumas 38-0 in Newcastle on Saturday. New Zealand now sits five competition-points clear on the standings, while both Argentina and Australia need unthinkable wins in the final round to steal the title.
Dane Coles crossed in the 13th minute for the All Blacks to get the scoreboard ticking over. The try came off the back of an impressive work rate from everyone in a black jersey.
But it was the set-piece which set the tone for the contest, with Fox Sports Australia commentator, Rod Kafer, describing the All Blacks’ dominance over the Pumas at the set-piece as a “weapon”. The control over that part of the game went a long way to seeing them finish the first-half with 74 percent of possession, they had 84% of territory and a 10-point lead.
Just after the half, the All Blacks butchered a few seemingly certain try-scoring opportunities that would’ve seen them pull away from their valiant opposition. Eventually, Ardie Save crossed, before Will Jordan and Patrick Tuipulotu helped finished the rout.
As Greg Clarke said on Fox Sports commentator, it was “business as usual” from the All Blacks, who were back to their best.
Finn Morton rates the All Blacks:
15. BEAUDEN BARRETT – 6.5/10
Back at fullback, Barrett made sure that the All Blacks earned the right to attack with his kicking display. In attack, the two-time World Player of the Year nearly scored the opener nine-minutes in but he wasn’t able to hang onto the ball after chasing a Mo’unga chip kick. Came close to scoring again early in the second-half but his pace wasn’t enough to see him get to the line.
14. JORDIE BARRETT – 6
Barrett was arguably the poorest performing member of the starting 15, unable to make a genuine impact with his eight carries. He missed his one penalty attempt, and his in-game kicking also lacked accuracy at times.
13. ANTON LIENERT-BROWN – 7
No mistakes from a player commonly regarded as one of the best centres in the world, but he wasn’t always prominent – even though he did have his moments. His work rate off the ball has to be admired, so nearly setting up Beauden Barrett for the opener with his kick-chase in the first half. Also nearly set Barrett up again just after the break.
12. JACK GOODHUE – 7
Goodhue is a bit of an unsung hero for the All Blacks at times. What he did won’t make any highlight reels, but his work rate and rugby IQ is essential for this side. Goodhue did a lot in attack, drawing plenty of attackers in before giving off short balls.
11. CALEB CLARKE – 7
Plenty of intent from the 21-year-old, who created plenty of havoc in attack, running for a game-high 76 carries off 12 carries. He was constantly looking to get involved too which is a great trait for a young player to have. Just after the All Blacks went 10-0 up, he did make a schoolboy error though that he’ll no doubt want to forget, with the ball sailing over his head and bouncing into touch off the kick-off. Clarke also bombed a couple of tries, most notably putting his hand on the sideline while trying to get around Argentinian defenders.
10. RICHIE MO’UNGA – 7.5
Back in the starting side, Mo’unga showed once again why he belongs in the All Blacks 10 jersey. Started the match with a smart kick in-behind the Pumas defence which so nearly led to a Beauden Barrett try early on. Later in the first-half, he split the opposition defence which nearly led to a try for Caleb Clarke. Still finished the night with 13 points and one try assist.
9. AARON SMITH – 7.5
The All Blacks are a different side with Smith in the line-up. Smith was at his energetic best, and had a few solid runs by sniping in around the ruck. Supplied quick ball as well. Is he the world’s best scrumhalf?
8. ARDIE SAVEA – 8
Savea had some impressive moments in the first half, but really came alive after the break. He came close to scoring on two occasions, before finally crossing with his third opportunity in the 52nd minute. Off a well-worked move off an attacking line-out five metres out, that close to the line, a rampaging Ardie Savea was never going to be stopped.
7. SAM CANE – 7
The captain led by example, doing plenty of work in some of the darkest places on the rugby field. While it wasn’t his best test of the year statistically, he still probably finishes the year as the All Blacks best player this year.
6. AKIRA IOANE – 9
Player of the match – the coming of age of Akira Ioane in a black jersey. Ioane has often been criticised in the past for his work rate but he was everywhere against the Pumas. Being pinned for a high tackle 25 minutes in was a minor blip in an otherwise flawless showing. Had nine carries for 31 metres, and was the go-to man at the line-out for the All Blacks. His standout moment came just after the break with the Pumas hot on attack, but the 25-year-old managed to strip the ball with the All Blacks defending on their own line. The All Blacks have really longed for a blindside flank who can dominate in attack, defence and around the breakdown, as well as be an option at the lineout. Well, I think they’ve found their answer.
5. SAM WHITELOCK – 7
A commendable performance from the Test veteran, who wasn’t at his best but still had an impact. Whitelock did plenty around the breakdown, and worked hard for every metre in attack, running for seven metres off seven carries. His standout moment was arguably a partial charge down on a Pumas attempted clearance, which eventually led to Coles’ try. The kick didn’t find the sideline, and 11 phases later, Coles crossed in the corner – that wouldn’t have happened with the lock’s work off the ball.
4. SCOTT BARRETT – 7
Barrett put the Pumas set-piece under pressure, but stood out for his impact in attack. Especially the first-half, he took the ball forward with purpose. Finished the night with a world-class 12 carries.
3. NEPO LAULALA – 8.5
At the set-piece, the All Blacks were beyond dominant in the opening forty. The men in black won all four scrums on their own feed, and one against the feed as well. A lot of that has to come down to the front row, starting with Laulala. This humiliation of the Pumas scrum continued until both Laulala and Moody were subbed off, rewarded with a well-earned rest with just over 20 minutes to play.
2. DANE COLES – 8
Coles had himself a night. He was perfect at the line-out with the All Blacks winning the ball off all of his nine throws, and he also crossed for the first try of the night. The whole team has to be credited somewhat for his try 13 minutes in, but it was the hooker who did well to finish it. Lurking out wide on the right, Coles ran into the corner untouched.
1. JOE MOODY – 8.5
The dominance at scrum time comes a lot down to Moody, who was back to best on Saturday. When it comes to doing your core job right, you can’t question the impact that Moody had in his 50th test, with a lot of penalties earned coming down to his involvement in particular.
16. CODIE TAYLOR – 6
17. KARL TU’INUKUAFE – 5.5
18. TYREL LOMAX – 5.5
Yellow carded after the siren had sounded, with a high tackle from a cleanout attempt.
19. PATRICK TUIPULOTU – 6.5
Crossed for a try late which was a great finish to a convincing win from the All Blacks.
20. HOSKINS SOTUTU – 7
21. TJ PERENARA – 6.5
22. RIEKO IOANE – 6.5
23. WILL JORDAN – 8
Without taking a pass, Jordan crossed for both his first and second try in the black jersey. In the space of three minutes, the 22-year-old picked up two loose balls to run in untouched. An impressive cameo off the bench for one of the most exciting prospects in New Zealand rugby.