Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Vito adds power to position

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All Blacks flanker Victor Veto on the attack during the Investec test match against the Pumas at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. 08 September 2012. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell.
All Blacks flanker Victor Veto on the attack during the Investec test match against the Pumas at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. 08 September 2012. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell.

The template was set by men like Alan Whetton and Michael Jones who paraded with such distinction in the black jersey.

They redefined the way blindside flankers operated. That outline was continued by Reuben Thorn and Jerry Collins before Jerome Kaino added his powerful version.

Those men showed the way for the current All Blacks, how an ironman wearing the No 6 jersey can add so much starch to the team pattern.

He was the man to lead the defensive troops, someone to bend runners back behind the advantage line and then bend it when on attack.

Since Kaino was damaged and signalled his intent to play out his next few campaigns in Japan, the All Blacks selectors have looked for someone to replicate his work.

At the Cake Tin last night it was Victor Vito's turn.

He had watched Adam Thomson then Liam Messam go about their work after he was damaged in the opening test against Ireland.

Given another chance, Vito was boiling to succeed although as he said during the week he wanted to be cold-blooded about his work.

A few years ago he carried some of the blame for the All Blacks defeat by the Wallabies when he got lost on defence.

He had sorted that and also grown more into his game and the needs of the blindside flanker.

He and his All Black comrades showed little evidence of that for the bulk of the opening spell last night against Argentina.

Vito was penalized early for detaching from a scrum early and along with a teammate was unable to double team effectively enough to prevent Rodrigo Roncero powering across the line soon after.

He claimed one then shelled another up and under until the test found him in the final 10 minutes. Several times he banged away and through Pumas in midfield.

They were the sort of athletic surges which claimed an interactive crowd and helped ignite teammates.

A minute from the interval, Vito must have thought his luck had turned completely when he claimed a ball which squirted out the side of a ruck.

The tryline was about 35m away and barely a Puma on the defensive horizon.

Vito is no slouch but his vision must have withered.

He went for the line, ignoring teammates in support before he was clobbered into touch by a flying Marcelo Bosch.

It was a chance lost and another moment for reflection as the All Blacks headed for what should have been a withering blast at halftime from their coaching staff.

No one would have been exempt from criticism.

Conditions were difficult but too many decisions and plays from the All Blacks were poor.

Vito didn't have long to ponder any redress. Once the second half eventually restarted after the power outage, Vito lasted three minutes until he was subbed.

Was it premeditated or the reaction from an unhappy coaching staff? Everyone will have a theory because Vito was only one in a widespread modest effort.

- NZ Herald

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