Before Beauden Barrett scored four tries and accumulated 30 points in the All Blacks 40-12 second rugby test walloping of the Wallabies at Eden Park last Saturday, Dan Carter’s Wellington test against the 2005 British and Irish Lions was considered the greatest performance by a No 10.
That day the cool-headed Carter’s master class included three tries and 33 points. He never quite reached such heights again but he went close in signing off in 2015 after New Zealand successfully defended their world crown at Twickenham.
Fittingly, Carter was named International Player of the Year that same year, an honour Barrett has claimed in the two years since.
Before Carter finished in a blaze of glory, there were many critics who claimed injuries had blunted his brilliance and that others like Aaron Cruden and Barrett deserved to start ahead of him.
At that time Barrett was the super sub, normally coming on to play at fullback and inevitably scorching over to score a try.
However so entrenched had he become as the All Blacks first-five over the past two years, the excellent Cruden, now followed by Liam Sopoaga, have taken their talent abroad in search of the big bucks.
Yet even Barrett can’t take his place for granted in the face of the challenges presented by Crusader pivot Richie Mo’unga and Chiefs’ Houdini, Damian McKenzie. In fact Mo’unga was the outstanding player of this year’s Super Rugby championship.
However All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen remained loyal to Barrett on the basis of his greater experience although he acknowledges Mo’unga’s time will come.
Whether that will be against Argentina in Nelson after a fortnight’s break remains to be seen although the Pumas are no mugs, having beaten South Africa 32-19 last weekend.
Personally, I would like to see Mo’unga and Barrett both start, with the versatile Barrett moved to second-five or centre where Mo’unga’s subtle pass could create gaps to exploit Barrett’s pace.
However, with so many midfield candidates to choose from, that’s unlikely to happen. A shame really because it has already happened at fullback where Jordie Barrett has replaced Ben Smith who has been moved to the right wing.
The 6ft 5in Jordie made a good fist of it too, and Smith an even better one on the wing where his vision and ability to link with his supports was so valuable.
Nevertheless, Smith remains, along with Israel Folau, the world’s finest fullback. Yet the selectors made the shift to give the talented Jordie experience.
Mo’unga deserves the same chance.
Congratulations to hard toilers Sam Whitelock and Owen Franks for reaching the 100-test milestone in the series against Australia.
Meanwhile, it was great to see the Warriors produce their finest game of the season to clinch a top eight NRL playoff spot with their 36-16 win against the Panthers.
Especially pleasing was the way five-eighth Mason Lino gelled with Shaun Johnson in stepping in for Blake Green, as he had so well for Johnson earlier in the season.
Straight running and snappy passing produced six tries, one to the elusive Lino and three to champion right wing David Fusitu’a.
Having reached the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Warriors need to set their sights higher than the top eight and reproduce the same form that tamed the Panthers.
– Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author.