Eleven talking points from the rugby weekend.
So what's the big picture?
The 36-0 All Black victory over Australia at Eden Park was a triumph. Does it automatically mean the All Blacks will win the World Cup? To say "yes" would be acting as hysterically as commentators during the week who sensed the All Black aura had gone, that the power in world rugby had headed north, and that Steve Hansen and co had been in the job too long. Be very grateful, if you're an All Black supporter, that Hansen and his cohorts, pragmatic and knowledgeable, are in charge, not keyboard warriors.
Sure, and it's never rained in Llanelli
Big ups to World Rugby for now rating Wales as the No 1 team in the world after they beat England 13-6 in game even English writer Mick Cleary called a "torpid, fractured contest". The threat to the All Blacks in Japan is called South Africa. Don't be fooled by their second XV barely getting past Argentina 24-18 in Pretoria. The game in Yokohama against the Boks in five weeks' time will be the real measure of the All Blacks at the Cup.
Sam Cane sensed it, and Wayne Smith knew
The remarkable win at Eden Park came, as most victories in sport do, from a combination of ideas being matched by execution, topped off by individual skills and brilliance. The five tries the All Blacks scored were the most exciting part, but perhaps even more vital was the efficiency and passion they brought to their defence. It's a measure of his commitment that Sam Whitelock topped the tackle count with 17, and the front on tackling from him, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, and Sam Cane was so devastating you flinched just watching. Cane said the period when Australia hammered the All Black line in the first 15 minutes, but were denied, told him "the boys were up for this one". Defence coach Scott McLeod has taken such a pounding from critics that last year the man he replaced, Wayne Smith, was moved to send me an unsolicited email saying "The All Blacks have the right man in Stormy (McLeod), in the right seat on the bus. We should all be thankful for that". At Eden Park the proof was in the number of tries the Wallabies scored. Zero.
Sorry Nic, the judges have worked out your dance moves
In Perth the two-step tango of Wallaby halfback Nic White seemed to mesmerise All Black defenders, who were unsure whether to cover the inside channel, or fan out along the line. Not at Eden Park, where White went from the match-winner of a week ago, to a handbrake on the Australian backline, the All Blacks reading him with ease. The logic of Sir Fred Allen, our only unbeaten All Black coach, remains as salient today as it did 50 years ago, "I don't want to see a halfback messing around before he passes the ball. I want the bloody thing in the backline before your opponents have a chance to blink". Time to blink? White's stuttering service gave the All Blacks time to check their text messages, discuss Auckland's awful weather, and debate whether Quentin Tarantino has really made his last movie.
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On top where it counts: Why Hansen and ABs get last laugh
Remember the kid who carried your armchair into the van?
George Bridge took his Super Rugby form into the test, and added a layer of brilliance that suggests the teenager who couldn't make age-group rep sides in Hawkes Bay has grown into a man fit to compete with the world's best in test matches. Bridge moved to Christchurch as an unknown, first working for Allied Pickford movers, and then digging foundations for the city's rebuild before his rugby career started to bloom, and he turned professional. A part of his maturity, and ability to stay calm and grounded, may have been helped by never having been in the worshipful spotlight of televised First XV rugby.
Meanwhile, on the other wing
Coach Hansen wanted a chance to see whether players like Bridge and Sevu Reece could step up in a cauldron, such as they'd find at the World Cup. In both cases the answer was a resounding, hell yes. Reece provides the darting, daring, elusive running that made Nehe Milner-Skudder the surprise bombshell of the 2015 World Cup.
As Fred Dagg would have said, "I think you'll agree in going along 100 per cent with me in agreeing about that particular one."
Asked how he rated Ardie Savea at No 6, Steve Hansen said Savea had been the outstanding player in Super Rugby, and now he was giving the All Blacks "great" go forward. "When he carries," said Hansen, "he really carries."
Props don't do whooping, but there may have been some pretty satisfied muttering
To demolish the Wallaby scrum with seven men once was embarrassing for Australia. To do it twice was as humiliating as it gets for tight forwards. Of all the turnarounds from Perth, the All Black scrummaging may have been the most dramatic.
That weird silence you heard was 48,150 people at Eden Park holding their breath
The Richie Mo'unga-Beauden Barrett experiment hit paydirt, so no wonder there was a collective shudder when Mo'unga had to leave the ground with an injured shoulder. Indications are that no structural damage was done, which means, now that Mo'unga looks completely at home in a test jersey, the All Blacks should enjoy the luxury of two of their best players working in tandem in Japan.
Tell it like it is
A visit to the headmaster's office seems on the cards for Dane Coles, binned for throwing Nic White to the ground in the 36th minute. "He's a man who plays with a lot of intent and a lot of attitude in every game he plays, including last week," said coach Hansen. "So you're going to get moments when he can do things you would probably classify as dumb. That was right up there. To his credit he came back on and got his head back in the game. It's a constant work on for Colesy." On the other hand, what headmaster in the world wouldn't want someone who commits body and soul the way Coles does? You get a sneaking feeling he'll get lines, rather than the cane.
That's why they do it for a living
I thought the All Blacks would win at Eden Park (that's not hindsight, I said it on NewstalkZB last Wednesday and again on Friday), but I also felt the New Zealand TAB was being a bit optimistic when it made the Wallabies rank $5 outsiders, and the All Blacks red hot $1.15 favourites. That was, as the game would prove, just being realistic. The Wallabies were awful last year, they lost 35-17 to South Africa in July, and they've had just one excellent performance this season, in Perth. Traders in the stock market have a gruesome expression called "the dead cat bounce". It's based on the idea that, in a crashing market, shares can briefly go up again, as optimists buy, but will then plunge again, just as a dead cat dropped from a high building may bounce when it hits the ground but will still be deceased. A cat may have bounced for Australia in Perth.