Herald rugby writers Gregor Paul, Wynne Gray and Kris Shannon answer three key questions from the All Black' 28-27 win over England last night.
1. A step in the right direction, yes, but how satisfied will the All Blacks be feeling tomorrow morning?
Gregor Paul: Probably about 85 per cent happy. Their set piece and collision work was outstanding and they largely fixed their pass and catch and basic skill work. But they left points on the field - were guilty of lacking composure and patience at critical times - and they won't be happy they let England score the last 14 points.
Wynne Gray: Satisfied the series is won but even with everyone on notice, the All Blacks began slowly and did not get into the game until the second quarter. Switching off in the last minutes also gives the coaches plenty of areas to dig into for the final test.
Kris Shannon: It will feel good. Very good. Both in the context of a winning run being stretched to 16 games and the hard-fought victory itself. The All Blacks were still well short of their best - what else would be expected in the second test of the year while facing formidable opposition? - but this was a vast improvement from the effort at Eden Park. An error-prone first half was quickly shrugged off and the patience shown by the home side should stand them in good stead for future tests.
2. Ben Smith's tackle and subsequent recovery on Manu Tuilagi, at the end of the first half, was ____?
One of being one the best moments of individual skill, bravery and commitment seen in a long time. That was a game-changer - extraordinary piece of skill.
As good as it gets. It was a convertible chasing a tractor before Smith's high quality tackle turnover which was top class.
Kris Shannon: Pivotal. Had Tuilagi evaded the fullback's attentions and straightened to give Owen Farrell an easy conversion attempt, England would have led by 14 points at the break. Insurmountable, no, but much more of a challenge. Instead, Smith's tackle and turnover allowed the All Blacks to not only limit their hard-charging opposition to a solitary try in the half but also pull within four when Aaron Cruden nailed a late penalty.
3. Should Steve Hansen ring the changes for the dead rubber next weekend in Hamilton?
No, absolutely not. Kieran Read will come back but as long as everyone esle is fit...why would he change it? England are a more than handy side who will punish the All Blacks if they are not bang on the money. The opportunity to mix things up lies on the bench perhaps where there might be an appetite to bring people on earlier.
He should make some changes. Read, if fit, should start with Kaino moving onto the blindside, Charlie Faumuina should begin at tighthead, Barrett at five eighths and Fekitoa on the wing for Cory Jane.
There should be changes but 'ring' might be the wrong word. While the series is secure, Hansen will undoubtedly want to further develop some of his incumbents' combinations before losing them back to Super Rugby. Beauden Barrett deserves a long-awaited shot in the No 10 jersey and TJ Perenara is worth a run alongside his Hurricanes teammate, after unwhelming efforts from Aaron Cruden and Aaron Smith. Cory Jane's place could depend on Israel Dagg's health, while it would be wonderful to see Kieran Read back in black.