Why Beauden Barrett is still All Blacks' best bet at No.10
SPOTLIGHT: Beauden Barrett’s second Test of the year at flyhalf was a success, as the veteran playmaker organised the All Blacks to a 38-21 win in Perth in the third and final Bledisloe Cup encounter.
Without Richie Mo’unga on tour, Barrett donned his preferred No.10 jumper against the Wallabies and didn’t take long to ignite the All Blacks, with a smart left-foot grubber kick for Will Jordan sparking a long-range try for his brother Jordie.
Barrett looked threatening when he handled the ball, taking on the Wallabies big men but it was his kicking game and control throughout the match that former Blues hooker James Parsons highlighted as impressive.
“If you look at the game statistically, you see 38 percent territory and 40 percent possession and it’s easy to think, ‘Man, they did well with those sort of stats’, but I think that is a reflection on the game drivers and Beauden is a big part of that,” Parsons said on this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“Their balance of attack, their kick strategy and their choice of kicks and their execution of it.
“A lot of the [All Blacks’] tries came from deep, and it’s easy enough in those situations to say we will get it down there, play the field position, but they chanced their arm and tried to make some penetration with the pictures they saw.
“If they were feeling that line speed pressure, it’s not just Beaudy, it’s the guys in and around him calling those calls, like that little grubber in behind. There were a number of other kicks that were really effective for their game plan and strategy.
“That’s what I think he controlled really well. He just orchestrated their game plan in all parts of the field. That’s why he’s played 93 tests, it isn’t always as easy you think.
Parsons used the example of the relatively inexperienced Noah Lolesio, in just his eighth test match, as the contrast to Barrett’s performance.
(Continue below …)
“If you look at the flip side for Lolesio, they had a man up and they are going for a cross-field kick and it’s not quite on. That’s where their balance of attack and their option-taking wasn’t quite as sound,” he said.
“And that was probably the difference and that’s why I think Beauden would be really happy with the performance of himself, but more importantly the men in front of him.
Parsons credited the decision-making of the team, and by extension Barrett, for opting to go to the maul when they had Jordie sent off just before the half.
Being down to 14 men and losing one of their backs, Parsons said it wouldn’t have been wise to play out wide.
“I always think the No.10 will be driving how they play,” he explained.
“They are 30 out, they [All Blacks] are a man down, it’s a smart play to go to the maul. To score a try off it is amazing, David Havili scores off it.
“Because that’s where they are down numbers, the backs, so they go to the maul and muscle up and Dave joins in.
“It’s those sorts of things that aren’t the highlight reel plays, but that’s the control and decision-making and delivering for his team under pressure to get the result.”
Barrett’s ex-Hurricanes teammate and long-time halves partner TJ Perenara also came into the game in the second half which Crusaders scrumhalf Bryn Hall said was typical of the explosive No.9 to come up with the play that sealed the result.
“He came on in the 54th minute and he’s done it time and time again in his career. Bringing that impact and having a really good understanding around moments in games,” Hall said.
“You look at that try he did set-up, the Australians made a great attack from that and were going through the line, TJ has a real ability to be able to take an intercept or come up with a big moment in a game.
“He got that intercept, put on some footwork and then made a great cross-field kick for Georgey Bridge to score that try. That was the nailing of the game.”
Before the All Blacks season there was chatter around whether the Japan-contingent would be ready for test rugby, but Hall said the guys have proven it ‘doesn’t take long’ to adjust to the next level and get where they need to be.
“This guy has played 70-odd Test matches so it’s not going to take him long [to get up to speed]. Very similar to Brodie Retallick, and Beaudy as well, it doesn’t take guys that long to get back to where they need to be,” Hall said.
“I think he will be stoked with his game. I thought Brad Weber was outstanding on the weekend as well. He really set the platform well, talk of Aaron Smith’s speed of ball, Brad did that really, really well.
“He had a great touch, some interplay to draw and pass to setup the first try for Jordie Barrett and did some good box kicks, and some great scramble D.
“Both of them had great games with respect to what they needed to bring.”
By Sam Smith, RugbyPass