All Blacks 31
For a match of minimal relevance to test rugby at least, the Barbarians delivered exactly what these young All Blacks needed.
A romp in-front of 62,546 at Twickenham would have done no good, only to inflate expectations that this level is easier than it actually is.
This genuine test, however, will keep feet firmly on ground. The next tier of All Blacks will realise they have much work to do. There are certainly plenty of lessons to absorb.
For a long time it seemed the Baabaas could triumph. The All Blacks only drew level in the 54th minute, when they scored three tries in the blink of an eye to give an overdue, and brief, reminder of their class.
Before then, though, they were a hard watch.
It was fitting Canterbury fullback George Bridge had the final say. The Baabaas made this encounter what it was, scoring four tries. Robbie Deans' smile from the coaching box said it all.
Only once in control in the final quarter did the All Blacks introduce Matt Duffie, Asafo Aumua and Tim Perry on debut. It was also a difficult match for Barrett to make his captaincy debut.
These young, inexperienced All Blacks seriously struggled to gel, though that should be of no surprise. In their last match here - the 2015 World Cup final - the starting team had 1339 caps. This time they had 423. Jerome Kaino, with 82 appearances, and Beauden Barrett, in his 60th match, made up a fair chunk of that. Elsewhere this team was very, very green.
Contrasting attitudes were evident from the outset. One team arrived under a degree of pressure to perform and grab chances; the other had nothing to lose. Conditions proved difficult, with drizzly rain falling, but the All Blacks skills were poor. With ball in hand they were disjointed to the point of being ugly.
Erratic passing put players under pressure - Steven Luatua latched onto two costly intercepts. TJ Perenara's support lines were good but his delivery again struggled to hit the mark, and he was replaced just after half time with Tawera Kerr-Barlow bringing calmness to the base.
Decision-making left a lot to be desired in the first half especially. This can largely be attributed to a lack of patience - attempting to fling the ball wide too quickly with wild skip passes, and being sucked into the Baabaas' off-the-cuff style.
Inexperience was perhaps best illustrated by Vaea Fifita's first break. What a sight it is to see him in open field, galloping along with the ball in one hand. But instead of passing to a steaming Ngani Laumape, he opted to go on his own and the try was squandered. This was but one example.
On defence, the All Blacks were exposed on the edge and caught short with switches back to the blindside.
By the end of the first half the hands on hips spoke volumes of frustration levels.
It wasn't all bad. The All Blacks scrum was dominant; Waisake Naholo set up two tries through classy offloads; Ardie Savea grabbed one turnover, got his leg drive going and shone on defence too. And Seta Tamanivalu had some good moments on the left wing - going around Julian Savea once.
Credit must also be given to the Baabaas. They may have been on the turps for most of the week but come kickoff they fronted. With 10 Kiwis in the starting team, they were always going to challenge. Luatua was inspirational; receiving a huge ovation when he hobbled off in the final quarter.
Richie Mo'unga scored a try and had his moments with ball in hand but got steamrolled by Laumape. Julian Savea was involved off his right wing. But South African openside Kwagga Smith, with his pace and energy, was the Baabaas' standout.
Eventually the All Blacks found some composure in the second spell, changing tactics and finding success by going to the air often. The bench added spark, but on the whole this was very much a case of understudies learning along the way to a future exam.
Barbarians: Richie Mo'unga, Steven Luatua, Sam Carter, George Bridge tries, Mo'unga con
All Blacks: TJ Perenara, Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape, Sam Cane, Nathan Harris tries, Beauden Barrett con 3