Like a brussel sprout covered in chocolate, the Buenos Aires Test was a Test of two distinct halves and once again highlighted how easy it seems for the All Blacks to flick a switch. Who were their best?
Ben Smith 6.5/10
Hardly touched the ball by his usual standards yet still crossed the line for another try. Hot and cold with his boot in an otherwise redundant Test match.
Israel Dagg 7/10
Made the most of few opportunities and defended well on the few occasions. Tried to get involved but one of those nights where most went left.
Anton Lienert-Brown 9/10
Outstanding statement. Beautiful hands and vision for multiple try assists, a score of his own and a direct shot across Fekitoa’s bow. Star in the making if he can produce that week-in-week-out. Man of the Match.
Ryan Crotty 8/10
Clean set of heels for the dagger-blow try on halftime and before that a metronome on defence and more than handy link in the midfield. Left the field with half hour left, breaking up the most potent 12-13 combination so far in 2016.
Julian Savea 7/10
A busy and fruitful match blighted by a sloppy attempt to finish in the corner and a strange case of losing his balance. High workrate.
Beauden Barrett 7.5/10
Became a distributor as he only had to give it to his midfield for something special to happen. To be fair, his class and fear factor is making space for his outsides. Kicked his goals, a bit shaky out of hand but his undoubted highlight was his confrontational and clutch defence.
TJ Perenara 8/10
A trust-building Test where he proved nobody should worry if A.Smith is out of commission. All of his trademark flicks, support plays and assists with some cheeky turnovers thrown in. Authoritative display with a few missed tackles his only real fault.
Kieran Read 7.5/10
Silky hands in and out of contact just another reminder why Read is the complete player. Won his share of lineout ball but missed a handful of tackles early on.
Ardie Savea 7.5/10
Like an even angrier reincarnation of Bert from Sesame St, Savea is hands-down the hardest man to tackle in the world. Owns the advantage line with the ball but isn’t quite doing the same without the ball.
Liam Squire 6/10
Comically went off as the team sacrifice in the 52nd, came back in the 63rd then got yellowed himself in the 65th. Buried in the breakdown for most of his time and couldn’t impose himself. Cue Dixon for Durban.
Brodie Retallick 8.5/10
Got his big stilts working out in the wide channels again when he wasn’t doing the business at the breakdown. Back to his dynamic best.
Patrick Tuipulotu 8.5/10
Beast of a game for the enforcer. Made breaks, smashed all body types, won lineouts and allowed Retallick to roam free. Best forward on show.
Owen Franks 8/10
Had the upper hand on his side of the scrum and great line speed and accuracy on defence. Part of a brick wall that nullified the Pumas narrow running game.
Dane Coles 8/10
Lineout ticked along, Creevy felt the pressure in the front row and Crotty got a try taken off him by the world’s most mobile hooker. Is re-writing the book on the position without shirking his tight duties.
Joe Moody 7/10
Heavy hitting game and along with Franks gave the Pumas no room that they enjoyed in Hamilton. Points off for the yellow card that turned the third quarter into a bogmire.
Codie Taylor 6/10
One solid hit aside, solid with the lineout. Gets around the park but it’s hard to follow an act like Coles.
Wyatt Crockett 6.5/10
Entered into arguably the world’s most dour scrum battle in history. Unusually a couple of missed tackles but plenty made where it mattered on the try line.
Ofa Tu’unga’fasi 7/10
Got put to work and then some during the not-so-great second half scrum-off. Huge contribution on defence.
Sam Whitelock 5/10
Sitting on the bench at the start of a Test doesn’t suit him. Missed two tackles he’d usually nail and was often chasing the play as the game descended into a mess.
Elliot Dixon n/a
Token four minutes. One push that brought the soccer player out in Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow n/a
Passed, passed and passed for final ten minutes.
Lima Sopoaga n/a
Like Dixon, gifted a Test cap. Nothing doing.
Damian McKenzie 5/10
Mixed bag on debut. Fantastic bootlace tackles during the Puma occupation of the 22 soured by running into some gnarled Puma forwards looking for some consolation scalps. Misread for the Tuculet’s try.