Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Carter notches up new milestone

Daniel Carter became the first player to pass 1400 test points last night. Photo / Getty Images
Daniel Carter became the first player to pass 1400 test points last night. Photo / Getty Images

Yet another milestone in the bag for Daniel Carter, along with one more All Blacks victory, but the first-five is unlikely to look back on this match with much fondness.

In what was always likely to be a difficult evening for him - it was his first test since June 22 (a victory over France in New Plymouth) and his first competitive game since July 27, when his Crusaders team was knocked out of the Super 15 by the Chiefs on this ground, the Pumas' awkwardness at the ruck and tackle made things more trying. The steady drizzle at Waikato Stadium didn't help either.

It was a match which seemed to struggle for traction and although Aaron Smith played well at halfback that malaise seemed to affect Carter too.

To compound matters, there was no was no Ma'a Nonu outside him, Francis Saili filling the No 12 jersey and getting off to a scratchy start when dropping a perfectly good Carter pass in front of his posts which led to Juan Manuel Leguizamon's converted try.

The sight of his usual trusty left boot missing the target so often seemed to sum things up for the 31-year-old. In the first half he kicked two from five, although his conversion of Aaron Smith's first try from wide on the left was a brilliant effort. After the break he was successful with two from two.

His first kick - after 11 minutes - brought up 1400 test points. He is the first to reach that milestone and it is a fitting reward for his excellence over such a sustained period. Last night was his 96th test after he made his debut against Wales way back in 2003.

He likes the big stage and enjoys the pressure and that's a good thing because All Blacks coach Steve Hansen acknowledged Carter is under the gun to retain his place in the face of the continuing challenges from Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, in particular.

There was no sign of the calf problem which kept him out of the first two Rugby Championship tests and he gave a reminder of the threat he still possesses when embarking on the run from his 22m line which ended in Smith's second try.

There was a forward pass to start with - though the transfer to Julian Savea could have been considered straight - and an offload to a Pumas player. It was that sort of match.

His last act was to convert Savea's try before being replaced by Barrett in the 55th minute - it was always Hansen's plan to replace Carter due to his lack of recent match time.

Up and down, yes, but Carter will still be one of the first names in Hansen's starting line-up for next Saturday's test against the Springboks at Eden Park. His calmness under pressure and experience make him invaluable still and the rare sight of Richie McCaw limping off in the second half last night could make those attributes even more important next weekend.

- APNZ

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