- By award-winning sports writer Ivan Agnew
Losing three of their best to pending fatherhood failed to stop the All Blacks’ dominance over Australia in Sunday’s Perth rugby test.
In fact, it should have been more than the 38-21 result but for their failure to convert five of their six tries with the Wallabies scoring three of their own.
Most were stunning as both teams attempted to spin the ball wide but New Zealand’s defence was more resolute. It was magnificent despite the absence of captain Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga who justifiably gave priority to the birth of their babies.
Coach Ian Foster was delighted at the All Blacks’ depth of talent and had special praise for first-five Beauden Barrett’s calmness under pressure and his early decision making,
However the standout star was No 6 Akira Ioane who tackled vigorously and made scorching runs to win consecutive Man Of The Match honours.
Immensely gifted with speed and power, he has at last become an 80-minute player capable of becoming one of the game’s greats. It’s also been a wonderful test series for brother Rieko who has excelled at centre and wing.
However, the biggest mover this year has been second-five David Havili who displayed his full range of skills on attack and defence in Perth to best the formidable Samu Kerevi.
With Anton Lienert-Brown back to his best at centre and wings Rieko Ioane and Will Jordan dangerous attackers, the backline gave a complete performance despite the absence of the brilliant Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga.
The margin of victory should have been higher but for the failure to convert more than one of the six tries scored with Jordan’s double stretching his tally to 11 in eight tests.
Australia replied with three of their own but they couldn’t breach the All Blacks’ defence when Jordie Barrett was unfairly red-carded and his team was reduced to 14 men for 20 minutes before Damian McKenzie replaced him.
Although beaten, Australia were by no means disgraced.
They enjoyed 60 per cent possession which was largely negated by New Zealand’s relentless defence and breakdown superiority.
Tate McDermott and Nic White maintain their tradition of producing great halfbacks and wing Marika Koroibete is a powerful and dangerous attacker. However, Foster has every right to appeal Jordie Barrett’s ordering off in what appeared to be an accidental striking of the Aussie on the neck with his boot when attempting to catch an up-and-under.
Having lost to Argentina for the first time last year before avenging that result, the All Blacks can expect a tough forward challenge from them next weekend before tackling world champions South Africa.
Meanwhile we can take pride in another strong medal-winning performance by New Zealand athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics with the amazing Sophie Pascoe leading the way with four to take her full tally to 19 including 11 gold.
In Tokyo it was gold in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley, silver in 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 100m backstroke. “I gave it everything I had,” she said.
How much was evident immediately after just clinging to the lead in the tough medley, vomiting and falling unconscious.
Not surprisingly, at 28, she promised that will be the last medley she will swim.
The strain of that race and the previous three events (including heats) took its toll when she finished fifth in the race that followed.