Dan Carter shot to superstar status as a test rugby flyhalf with a mesmerising performance against the 2005 British and Irish Lions in Wellington.
His control over the match has gone down in history as being one of the more complete performance by an individual wearing the number 10 jersey, with the then 23-year-old pivot scoring 33 of the All Blacks’ 48-points. The point-scoring haul also helped the All Blacks’ win the series, having won the first test a week before in Christchurch.
Speaking on a video published on the All Blacks YouTube page, former British and Irish Lions winger Ieuan Evans said that it was “one of the greatest all-round performances anyone’s ever seen.”
“That performance by Dan Carter marked him as one of the greatest to have ever put a rugby jersey on,” Evans added.
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward made 11 personnel or positional changes for the second test, including moving England’s 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson from inside centre to flyhalf.
The visitors got off to an ideal start in Wellington, going up 7-0 early. But Carter helped bring his side back into the contest with two penalty goals, before he truly began to take control. In the 18th minute, Carter received the ball well inside his own half, before creating something special out of practically nothing.
He stepped Lions fullback Josh Lewsey who was up in the defensive line, before fending off inside centre Gavin Henson. Carter then ran 60 metres, before laying the ball off to captain Tana Umaga who crossed untouched for the All Blacks’ first try of the night.
Later in the contest, Carter scored arguably one of the most iconic tries of his career by placing a brilliantly weighted kick in behind Josh Lewsey. He then stepped up and converted his own try from the right sideline.
With the All Blacks up by 16 and with only 11 minutes to play, he then secured the series win with his second try of the night, stepping his way through the covering Lions defence.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who has since been knighted, described his first-fives performance as “amazing” following the series securing win.
Journalist for The Guardian, Robert Kitson, labelled Carter’s performance as “special”, and that “Carter’s Test will feature forever in rugby’s pantheon of great individual performances.”
“The All Blacks’ flawless fly-half is the future of rugby and no matter how spirited the tourists, a yawning chasm in class has opened up,” Kitson also said.
Another journalist for The Guardian in Michael Aylwin, also reflected on the response to Carter’s incredible showing, and how it simply had to be believed – but even then some struggled to believe it.
“The question ‘Have you ever seen anyone play better than that?’ was asked at the post-match press conference an embarrassing number of times, sometimes by the same person of the same coach. It was if we were still checking that it had really happened.”
A week later, Aylwin continued to sing the praises of Carter, who he said had “gone beyond the boundaries set by [Jonny] Wilkinson.”
“His performance against the Lions in the second Test was immaculate. Some fly-halfs are great playmakers, some are great tacklers, some are great kickers, some score tries, some kick goals – but none, certainly today and probably in history, does all of them quite so effortlessly as Carter did last weekend.”
Former England lock and columnist for The Telegraph, Paul Ackford, also reflected on Carter’s performance and how he’d outplayed Wilkinson.
“New Zealand’s outside-half, just 23, ended with a personal haul of 33-points and virtually defeated the Lions on his tod. Jonny who? Carter is now the new superstar of the global game beyond any question,” Ackford stated.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 26, 2020
Speaking with Sky Sports’ Rugby Retro earlier this year, Carter discussed how that match the significance of a performance like that against the Lions.
“The final whistle went and we were all ecstatic, we’d just won a Lions series and I was so proud of the team. Little did I realise the impact I had on the game,” he said.
“There’s probably two key tournaments in world rugby, and for me they are Rugby World Cups and Lions series’.
“If you want to make a name for yourself on the international stage, you have to play well through the Six Nations or Rugby Championship for maybe two, three, four years consistently, or in a Rugby World Cup or a Lions Series.
“You’re always striving for the perfect game. For me, that was probably the closest I got in my 112 Test matches for the All Blacks. You’ll never say that you’ve played the perfect game…but that was as close as I got.”
Carter went on to win the International Rugby Board’s world player of the year award that year.
Watch highlights from Dan Carter’s performance against the Lions in 2005
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