All Black No.8 Kieran Read underlined his status as the best eighthman in world rugby in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane.
Read was once again the star of the show with a typical all-round effort and should be the favourite to win the IRB Player of the Year award.
His performance wasn’t quite enough to keep the All Blacks’ unbeaten run alive, but the team’s composure and experience at least put the visitors in a position to win the match.
Quintin van Jaarsveld rates the All Black players.
15 Israel Dagg
Not the typical electrifying Dagg but he had his moments. He was a rock under the high ball and generally kicked well out of hand.
14 Cory Jane
Very good under the high ball and dangerous on the counter attack. Almost scored a sensational try.
13 Conrad Smith
Not his finest hour but he put runners into space and was a cinderblock on defence.
12 Ma'a Nonu
The strong-running Nonu pitched up in Brisbane and made life difficult for the Wallaby centre pairing. A couple of deft offloads proved he’s more than just a battering ram and kept the hosts’ defence honest.
11 Hosea Gear
Once again racked up the most metres by an All Black back. Made a clean break in the first half but couldn’t link up with a support runner to capitalise. The one poor decision aside, Gear enhanced his chances of making the No.11 jersey his own.
10 Dan Carter
His shallow, looping kick-offs - such an underrated yet vital facet of play - was pinpoint and often allowed the visitors to retain possession. His defence was solid; he made an important tackle on opposite number Kurtley Beale, but his goal-kicking was off and he missed the last-gasp drop-goal.
9 Aaron Smith
Sloppy service from the base that often left his backline under pressure and constantly kicked away turnover ball with runners lined up outside him.
8 Kieran Read
Fittingly described as the backbone of the All Black team by the Australian commentating team, Read was sublime as he’s been all season. From a try-saving tackle on Tatafu Polota-Nau to barnstorming runs to line-out takes, he did it all.
7 Richie McCaw
He was blown up at the breakdown more than usual but still made some telling turnovers and an unrivalled 13 tackles. The real story of McCaw’s match, however, was his leadership, in particular his brave decision to call for a scrum inside his 22 and go for the win rather than settle for a draw. It was either hit or miss as they pushed to equal the world record with a 17th consecutive win which showed the faith and confidence he had in his team mates.
6 Liam Messam
Flew under the radar somewhat but did the necessary dirty work, earning some hard yards and winning two turnovers.
5 Sam Whitelock
His work ethic over and above his line-out management was outstanding as hade no less than 11 tackles, the same amount as the ever-present Read.
4 Brodie Retallick
Reliable target in the line-out, strong on defence and a physical presence in the tight-loose.
3 Charlie Faumuina
Perhaps a tad nervous on his run-on debut, Faumuina was often on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle at scrum time.
2 Keven Mealamu
Not the greatest of his 100 Tests as he conceded a couple of penalties and made a few handling errors but can nevertheless be proud of his milestone.
1 Tony Woodcock
Showed some good hands and ball skills for a front row forward and mauled James Slipper in the scrums on occasion but put his team under pressure with his yellow card offence at the breakdown.
16 Andrew Hore (on for Mealamu, 56th minute)
The line-outs were a mess when Hore came on with clear miscommunication hampering the All Blacks' momentum.
17 Owen Franks (on for Woodcock, 45th minute - on for Faumuina, 50th minute)
Got around the park but conceded two penalties.
18 Luke Romano (on for Retallick, 67th minute)
Not enough time to be rated.
19 Victor Vito (on for Messam, 70th minute)
Not enough time to be rated.
20 Piri Weepu (on for Smith, 59th minute)
Should have been brought on earlier. Having said that, he didn’t play to his tactical strengths and instead made a few carries around the fringes. Not the smartest cameo.
21 Aaron Cruden (on for Nonu, 61st minute)
Slotted in at inside centre and showed good vision to stab through a grubber kick for Jane to chase and nearly score.
22 Ben Smith (on for Smith, 51st minute)
The most impressive All Black replacement on the night. He brought an extra spark to the backline and made the 30-metre break that put Carter in range for the drop-goal.
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