After a draw and two solid wins, everyone expected the All Blacks to record another crushing victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane on Friday night.
NZ head coach Ian Foster made a raft of changes to the side that walloped Australia in Sydney but there was still enough talent on the field that fans would have been comfortable that a win was forthcoming.
That wasn’t to be, however. As in Perth last year, a first-half red card dented any momentum for the men in black and despite the numbers evening up not many minutes later, New Zealand never took control of the game.
Few players covered themselves in glory and some put performances on the park that could seriously hinder their chances at future selection. How did the All Blacks perform in the eventual 24-22 loss?
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 5/10
Reliable enough on defence but still hasn’t got the carrying game that Ian Foster will be looking for. Penalised once at the breakdown. Probably hasn’t made the most of his starting opportunities and certainly won’t have done anything to worry injured incumbent Joe Moody.
2. Codie Taylor – 7
Bang on with his lineout throws, hitting 12 from 12, and his back-of-the-maul try was a fair reward. Tackled his heart out but didn’t have a huge presence on attack. Has lost a little bit of ground to Dane Coles in the last few weeks.
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 1
Poor tackle technique resulted in a red card barely a quarter of a way into the match. Referee Nic Barry made the absolute right call and the All Blacks were punished for Tu’ungafasi’s indiscretion. Had missed both of his tackle attempts before he was sent from the field. A night to forget for a prop who’s made so many good strides this year.
4. Scott Barrett – 5
The number one lineout target upon his starting return to the All Blacks. Great work to swim through an early lineout and force a breakdown penalty. Unfortunately, his performance will be most remembered for the penalty and yellow card he received for playing the ball on the ground as the Wallabies pushed for the win. It was a crucial time of the game and it handed a crucial 3 points to Australia. Conceded two other penalties during the game.
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5. Sam Whitelock – 6
Went about his business in an understated way. Productive on defence but completely absent as a carrier. May not have been the captain, but was the most experienced player on the field and needed to help galvanise his side.
6. Akira Ioane – 7
Excellent 30 minutes on debut and was incredibly unlucky to be subbed due to Tu’ungafasi’s red card. First carry created the initial momentum needed for the All Blacks’ opening try of the match then showed nice desperation on defence with a one-hand slow down on a rampaging Marika Koroibete. Also a surprisingly useful lineout option. Deserves another start against Argentina next week.
7. Sam Cane – 7.5
Mixed up his role nicely. Carried, passed and offloaded. Was fired up after the red card to teammate Tu’ungafasi and responded with a bit of argie-bargie, but channelled that into making an excellent turnover in the 28th minute to shut down any Wallabies momentum. Unsurprisingly topped the All Blacks’ tackle stats. Played his heart out but from a leadership point of view, did the loss reflect poorly on Cane’s captaincy?
8. Ardie Savea – 9
Typically industrious on attack, almost inevitably required at least two men to bring him down on every carry. One brilliant weaving run carved off almost 30 metres and with a bit more support, probably should have led to a try. Created anarchy inside the Wallabies 22 in the dying minutes of the match. Equally as impressive on defence, hitting hard and never failing to slow down the Wallabies’ ball at the ruck.
9. TJ Perenara – 3
Bad early kick almost handed Wallabies a great attacking opportunity in the first minute of the game. Delivery from the base of the ruck was a clear step down from what Aaron Smith has offered in previous weeks. Was abrasive but not necessarily in a way that actually benefitted the All Blacks. Gave over possession on five occassions.
10. Beauden Barrett – 5
Started the match like a fullback playing in the 10 jersey, naturally. Silly decision to attempt a cross-field kick inside his own 22 but the All Blacks escaped unscathed. When the double red cards sucked the structure out of the game, Barrett needed to reinforce the All Blacks’ shape but never really took control. Chip kicks over the Wallabies defence line failed to produce results. Looked strong in open play, certainly needs to be shifted back to 15 for big matches in the future.
11. Rieko Ioane – 5
Another game, another try for Rieko Ioane. Fluffed a kick which presented the Wallabies with a solid attacking opportunity in the 17th minute but looked dangerous when he had time and space. That didn’t come often for Ioane, however, and probably tried to force play too much when opportunities weren’t on.
12. Ngani Laumape – 6
Safe – which is not the adjective you’d normally expect to attach to Laumape. Made just seven metres with the ball in hand. Solid enough in the midfield and never let the All Blacks down, but also didn’t stand out in any way. You get the feeling that Jack Goodhue would have had a greater say in the result.
Prop Ofa Tuungafasi has become the fifth All Black to be sent off in a test match following a tackle which contacted the head in the fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane. #AUSvNZL #BledisloeCup https://t.co/GOnZCgCymJ
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 7, 2020
13. Anton Lienert-Brown – 6
A mixed game from one of the All Blacks’ best performers this year. Missed a few tackles, conceded a couple of penalties and didn’t quite find the space for runs or offloads that he’s normally so good at generating.
14. Sevu Reece – 3.5
An error-laden performance. Wasn’t as dangerous on attack as All Blacks fans have come to expect. Set the tone early in the game when he made a bad decision to throw a quick lineout, putting Scott Barrett under pressure. He was saved by the referee’s whistle in that instance but the right wing didn’t learn from the error, and another quickly taken lineout in the 64th minute – this time an overthrow – eventually handed the Wallabies 3 points. Swapped to the left wing immediately afterwards and likely won’t have an opportunity to make up for his disappointing performance any time soon.
15. Jordie Barrett – 6.5
Ability to draw in two Wallabies defenders and offload to Luamape was crucial in creating New Zealand’s first try. Spent a lot of time covering his teammates’ mistakes and never really had the opportunity to show his hand on attack. Still looked more at home than on the right wing, but is he a better option at the back than his older brother?
16. Asafo Aumua – 4
On in 70th minute. Copped a penalty for a high shot but otherwise had little time to stamp his mark in his test debut.
17. Alex Hodgman – 5
On in 50th minute. Like Tu’inukuafe, offered little on attack – but was more accurate on defence.
18. Tyrel Lomax – 6
On in 29th minute. Hard to gauge whether his side of the scrum was strong or not – went tit for tat with his opposition.
19. Tupou Vaa’i – N/A
On in 78th minute. Well-taken try.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 7, 2020
20. Cullen Grace – N/A
On in 78th minute. Accrued one test cap but didn’t touch the ball nor make any tackles in his minimal time on the park.
21. Brad Weber – N/A
On in 77th minute. Added zip.
22. Damian McKenzie – N/A
On in 70th minute on the right wing. Somehow avoided being absolutely steamrolled by Koroibete in the dying moments of the game.
23. Will Jordan – N/A
On in 65th minute. Left the field after five minutes thanks to a head knock.
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