When Daniel Carter destroyed the British & Irish Lions with his virtuoso performance in 2005, All Blacks coach Graham Henry didn't believe he'd ever see a first-five play better.

Henry was one to dish praise wisely and sparingly, but it wasn't as if the authenticity of his statement needed to be supported as Carter's heroics were genuinely spell-binding that night.

He scored three tries and 33 points but he also played with the Lions – twisting them in such terrible knots they were unquestionably relieved when the test finished.

Carter made everything look easy that night, as if he had more time and space than everyone else and he used it to pull out almost every trick in his exquisite portfolio.


Henry wasn't alone in believing that Carter's performance in Wellington would never be bettered.

And yet here we are, 13 years on, Beauden Barrett may have done just that. His 30 points in the second Bledisloe included four tries, all of which were only possible because of his extreme pace and awareness.

Where even did Barrett come from to score the first and what about the surge to blast past the scrambling defence to score the third?

They were the obvious highlights but there was also a genius cross-kick-pass to Ben Smith that was inches away from being spectacular and an endless number of smart tactical plays that made all the difference.

Like Carter in 2005, Barrett often appeared to have seen things long before they happened and he played with a sense of freedom and confidence that only those truly blessed ever get to enjoy.

Barrett was at the core of everything good the All Blacks did just as Carter had been in 2005.

Barrett was also as much finisher as he was provider in the same way Carter had been and the former left everyone similarly spell-bound with his range of skills and sheer audacity to back himself to pull off the impossible.

So was Barrett's 2018 performance better than Carter's in 2005? "I don't think it is about comparing performances," says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.


"I think it is about both athletes were quality players and playing in a position where you have a massive influence on the game. Did they exert that influence? Yes, Dan did in 2005 and Beauden did last night.

"He's a world class player and he gets excited when he's on the big stage and he got some ball going forward and the type of athlete he is, when he is getting quality ball like that he is so dangerous. He's got so much pace and so much ability to see things and react quickly to it.

"Beauden is not the finished article yet. I think he still has a long way to go to be the player he is capable of being.

"That's the exciting thing because he's already shown us how good he is but he could be better yet."

Hansen's contention Barrett still has ample room for growth is genuine rather than a forced attempt to stop public and player from getting carried away.

The biggest barrier to achieving new heights is mental and a sense of what's possible being defined by what others have achieved.

If Barrett can be clear in his own head that Carter is not necessarily the benchmark for him to aspire to, then he could write himself into history as the best No 10 of all time.

"We didn't think anyone could be better than Andrew Mehrtens," says Hansen. "And we didn't think anyone could be better than Grant Fox. Life has a way of turning something new up because they are inspired by the people before them.

"We might even have someone in our squad now who will one day be better than Beauden Barrett. And there will definitely be kids watching Beauden Barrett wanting to be better than him and that is the great thing about sport. Great performers inspire other great performers."