On 17 July 2015 in Christchurch:
All Blacks 39-18 Pumas
Well that will settle a few nerves for, oh, about a week.
The truly impressive thing about the All Blacks’ performance last night was the willingness in the physical. There was no spite or niggle – the match was played in a respectful spirit exemplified by McCaw and Fernandez Lobbe sharing a grin afterwards – but every contact by a black jersey was fiercely intended. It was a sort of predetermined assault by the SAS: precise, explicit, controlled. Or one of those polite London gangster outfits, who apologetically lift you bodily out of the way so that they can steal your valuables. Excuse me, ma’am.
Jerome Kaino, in particular, was back to something of his form from the 2011 semi-final against Australia, a massive wrestling phenomenon imposing his idea of what’s proper. Wonderful to see Israel Dagg rising high and catching confidently. Very comforting to see the ABs scrum push the Pumas off their ball late in the game: which was not so much a physical achievement, as a mental one.
This is not to say that it was near to where they will need to be later. The handling errors, some wayward passes, a few disconnections from players who should have been closer in support, two tries conceded from rolling mauls. The SBW-Nonu partnership is well below a Nonu-Smith pairing. Perenara was excellent, but still a step or two behind Aaron Smith.
But these are mere niggles. We know now that the boys mean to turn up to play some footy this year. That’s enough for now.