Taking the L in your first All Blacks test is a good omen, finds Jamie Wall.
The biggest talking point from the British & Irish Lions’ shock second test win over the All Blacks was, and forever will be, the ordering off of Sonny Bill Williams. The first red card shown to an All Black in 50 years also marked the beginning of another former league player’s test career, when Hurricane midfielder Ngani Laumape came off the bench to try and stem the hemorrhage.
It’s not the way you want your first test to start. Laumape probably spent the week thinking he’d be getting the last 20 to blast away at a tired Lions defence that had already conceded 25 or so points. Instead he found himself having to take them on half an hour before he should’ve and with one less teammate to help him.
And it certainly wasn’t the way you’d want your first test to finish, either. All Blacks losses are rare, so having to endure one in your first match must feel extra harsh.
But there’s a couple of things that can cheer Laumape up: firstly, he played pretty well. Secondly, he’s in good company when it comes to guys that took an L in their first game in a black jersey. In fact, if anything it means you’re going on to achieve quite a bit. Here are some other members of the club.
Jonah Lomu: Before he made his blockbusting entrance to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the most important man to ever play the game had to endure not only a losing match, but a losing series as well. 19-year-old Jonah was badly exposed out on the wing of a very pedestrian All Blacks backline, getting turned inside and out while the French scored the try from the end of the world. He went on to score 37 tries in 63 tests, and has the distinction of endorsing the greatest Playstation game of all time.
Ma’a Nonu: On a rainy night in his hometown, Nonu made an inauspicious debut for the All Blacks against the soon-to-be world champion English in 2003. Just like on the weekend, the All Blacks went down in the wet at Westpac Stadium and Nonu had to wait another week for a test victory. He probably got over it after he played 102 more, scored 31 tries and won two World Cups.
Joe Rokocoko: Outside Nonu was young Blues sensation Rokocoko, who barely touched the ball that night. He did, however, score the next week (wearing jersey #30 for some reason) against Wales. This was the first of 46 for the All Blacks, at one stage was going at better than one a game. He ended up playing 68 tests and is still making serious coin playing for Racing 92 at the ripe old age of 34.
Nehe Milner-Skudder: NMS was a guy who barely anyone would’ve heard of at the start of 2015. But after a stellar Super Rugby season, he found himself on the wing for the All Blacks in Sydney for the Bledisloe Cup series opener. It certainly wasn’t his fault that the All Blacks lost 27-19, he scored both their tries and showed everyone what he was capable of at test level. He ended up getting another try against the Wallabies that year, opening the scoring in the World Cup final at Twickenham en route to a 34-17 All Black win.
Scott Barrett: One of the many, many Barrett children, Scott had the misfortune of getting his first taste of test rugby in Chicago last year against Ireland. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last eight months, you’ll know that Ireland scored their first ever victory over the All Blacks that day – so Barrett’s first test loss has the added bonus of being an historic one as well. But the big man did get a try in that game and has gone on to be a solid member of the team ever since.
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