Yes, it was a clean sweep against the English tourists, though the points don’t tell a complete story.
The first test in Auckland was a typically rusty first performance of the year. It was also the most consistent and threatening performance from the English. Even though the final score of the second test was closer in final points, the All Blacks dominated the game and bad refereeing gave England at least 7 points that should never have been their’s. The final game of the series was a return to good form for the All Blacks. Again, still rusty and unable to sustain the momentum for a full 80 minutes, they managed to deflate the English ego and send them packing.
My feelings toward the series were mostly ones of relief and satisfaction. Although it wasn’t always pretty rugby, the All Blacks managed to walk away from each game the winners. People talk about it being important psychologically to get this sweep over England to keep that nation’s confidence in check ahead of the 2015 World Cup. However, I think both England and Australia have the sort of sports and media culture that a single win against the All Blacks is enough for them to think they are the new kings of the roost.
Sometimes it almost feels like the All Blacks record counts for nothing from the perspective of English media. They loathe to admit on television and in the papers that the All Blacks are the best in the world. Instead they will add caveats like “at the moment”, or “one of the best”. Dudes… We have only lost one game since the 2011 World Cup! What do we have to do to get a little acknowledgment for that hard graft?
As for the individual performances over the series, Malakai Fekitoa obviously made a huge impression with the selectors and public through his Super Rugby season and he looked good in the mid-field. The guy hasn’t spent a lot of time in New Zealand and is a Tongan citizen, so I think we’re lucky he’s chosen the All Blacks. Might he switch back to representing Tonga internationally in the future, or is he here for keeps?
On the other hand, Ryan Crotty continues to be both solid and, at times exceptional. Sometimes I think it’s a shame that selectors and the media get so excited looking for the next Jonah Lomu superstar and waste opportunities to develop talented workhorses who lack frills but can still deliver. I like Malakai, but I also like Crotty. Both need more time on the pitch because they are both the future and there is a huge experience disparity between them and our first choice aging mid-fielders.
Ben Smith continues to be as close to perfect as one can possibly hope for in a full back, and I’m grateful he has finally taken possession of the number 15. Dagg remains a great player, but right now Smith is just too good to be placed anywhere else.
Finally, Jerome Kaino returned to New Zealand and the All Blacks this year and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He monstered the English and is making a case to get the number 6 back on a regular basis. The All Blacks are incredibly lucky to have him back and still in such great form.
|07/Jun||New Zealand v England||Auckland||7:35 pm?||20-15|
|14/Jun||New Zealand v England||Dunedin||7:35 pm?||28-27|
|21/Jun||New Zealand v England||Hamilton||7:35 pm?||36-13|