'Icing on the cake': Savea's display highlights dominance of All Blacks' pack
The All Blacks test against Wales was forced to become a battle of physicality, with a focus on carrying and direct running as slippery conditions impacted proceedings.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster was ‘delighted’ with the result as his team had to play a ‘condensed’ plan to combat tough handling conditions.
They scored there first two tries through hooker Codie Taylor burrowing over after a spate of pick-and-go carries as the All Blacks opted to play tight.
“It come here and play the way we played, very slippery conditions even with the roof shut,” Foster said.
“It actually made it a little bit harder and condensed the game down a bit.
“I just love the patience that we had. I thought Wales stayed in the game for long periods and had some moments of putting us under pressure but we rode through that.
“We’ve been building nicely through the second half of the Rugby Championship and made some good strides.
The consistently energetic Ardie Savea powered the All Blacks pack once again with an impressive performance, the All Blacks No 8 finished with a game-high 15 carries, as well as 10 from 10 tackles with two turnovers won.
The No 8 then bagged one of his one in the 65th minute, from another pick and go close to the line, and celebrated the score with a swan dive over the top of a Welsh defender.
Foster praised the influence of Savea within the team as ‘inspirational’ and said his performance was reflective of a pack that had dominance.
“He’s playing pretty good. For someone that hasn’t played for awhile, he didn’t show any rust out there at all,” Foster said.
“Carries strong, he’s a pretty inspirational part of this team.
“He leads really, really well off the field just through his actions.
“When you see your loose forwards play like that, it’s always going to be pretty reflective of a pretty dominant pack up front, and I’m sure he would say that too.
“It was a pretty strong collective effort up front and he was able to put the icing on the cake.”
One player who benefitted from the strong platform up front was experienced halfback Aaron Smith who showed flashes of his younger self with a fantastic individual try early in the second half.
Back in the starting side after featuring off the bench against Japan, Foster said he was impressed with Smith’s control of the game and speed of ruck ball.
“I’m not sure there is a correlation between Richie Mo’unga’s return and Aaron Smith’s form,” Foster said.
“Whether it’s Stephen or Beauden I think Aaron still does what he does, but he certainly controlled things well today.
“I’m not sure whether you know or not, but he broke the record for most capped All Black back, so today was a pretty special occasion for him.
“To show off with a couple of meat pies will be pleasing for him, he doesn’t score too many. Those little legs had to run a long way for that first one, but he is a massive part of our team and when he gets a flow on.
“There were stages where Wales made that really hard for him, but I think we overcame that.”
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