All Blacks: The best of Ben Smith

By Steve Hepburn of the Otago Daily Times

New Zealand All Blacks fullback Ben Smith in action during the Quarter Final between France and the All Blacks, held at Millennium Stadium, at the Rugby World Cup 2015. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks fullback Ben Smith in action during the Quarter Final between France and the All Blacks, held at Millennium Stadium, at the Rugby World Cup 2015. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

All Black vice captain Ben Smith will play his 50th test for the All Blacks tomorrow night. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn picks four of Smith's best tests in the black jersey.

v Argentina, La Plata, September, 2013, won 33-15

Smith first played a test in 2009 - against Italy in Milan - but it was not until 2013 that he became a regular in the side.

The All Blacks travelled to Argentina and found an opponent determined to improve on its previous showing in Hamilton.

Smith was on the right wing and, after a quiet first half, he scored two tries in the second half.

First he received the ball in his own half off Ma'a Nonu, sprinted through a gap and saw off the covering defence to score.

Then right at the end of the game, he took the ball in the middle of the backline and stood up a couple of defenders to score the try which clinched the game and a bonus point.

v South Africa, Johannesburg, October, 2013, won 38-27

A week later, Smith was in Johannesburg, in a game which had almost everything.

Smith started the All Black ball rolling with an exciting score.

No 8 Kieran Read got clear on the right-hand side and found Smith who cut inside and could not be stopped.

He shrugged off a couple of defenders and scampered over to score the first of nine tries in one of the best games played in recent memory.

Smith was one of the best in a polished All Black performance which managed to contain a Springbok team hell-bent on winning on home soil.

v England, Dunedin, June, 2014, won 28-27

This was the test in which Smith came of an age as a fullback for the All Blacks.

Israel Dagg had been in the position for a couple of years but, with Smith ever on the improve and Dagg crying off with injury, the Green Island man was given his chance.

And, boy, did he take it.

He scored the first try for the All Blacks, set up the second and was a constant menace for the English on his home ground.

But it was his defence that won the game for the All Blacks.

Big English midfielder Manu Tuilagi was sprinting away for what looked like a try just before halftime when Smith sailed across and managed to cut him down just a few metres from the line.

The whole stadium erupted.

Smith scored early in the second half after an Aaron Cruden break and he set up a score for Julian Savea.

The game was as good as over although England scored a couple of tries at the end to make it seem close.

Smith was the undoubted star of the night on his home patch.

v France, Cardiff, October, 2015, won 62-13

A lot was talked about this game but the All Blacks just ignored all the hype and proceeded to play a total team game.

Smith was to the fore.

As France tried to get back into the match in the first half, Smith launched a high kick and regathered with a spectacular leap outmuscling French No 8 Louis Picamoles.

That catch led to a stunning All Black try and they went on the rampage in the second half.

Smith was just one of the high-performing cogs in a smooth-running All Black machine.

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