Worked it out the other day – since I've been watching the All Blacks, they've played over 400 test matches. I've missed few over the years but never have I seen a player do what Beauden Barrett did in that remarkable try to Luke Jacobson.
It stands with unique moments like Ian Kirkpatrick's solo try against the Lions, various Jonah Lomu rampages (particularly the World Cup try against England), Christian Cullen's deceptive grace and speed beating six players to score against Scotland, John Kirwan's beat-everybody-twice, length-of-the-field effort against Italy, Hika Reid's start-it and finish-it score against Australia from near his own goal line.
There's been great tries scored against the All Blacks – Jean-Luc Sadourny's try for France, "the try from the ends of the earth". Gareth Edwards' try for the Barbarians against the 1973 All Blacks was voted best try ever a few years ago, the fuse lit by Phil Bennett astonishingly sidestepping backwards.
There have been many more but, in all those years watching as a boy, a player, a rugby writer and fan, Barrett's pass occupies a space all its own in setting Jacobson up for his simple touchdown against the Pumas.
Maybe only Carlos Spencer's effort against the Springboks in 2003 comes close. The All Blacks, close to the Boks' line and facing strong defence, cleared the ball from a ruck. Spencer, facing right and bending over, threw a no-look pass between his legs to the left – allowing Joe Rokocoko to stroll over ahead of a bemused Springbok defence.
But Barrett's pass was, for any rugby tragic (in fact followers of any oval ball code), unparalleled. The try had its germination in an All Black breakout from their own 22 and the roles played by TJ Perenara, David Havili, Rieko Ioane and George Bridge should not be forgotten. But it might have turned to custard had it not been for Barrett's sublime moment.
Somehow, after a skittering run past defenders, he managed to clear the ball to Jacobson – a one-handed reverse pass with the wrong hand, while holding off a Pumas tackler. The ball shot out of Barrett's bag of tricks like a bullet. It covered fully 15 metres, spinning on its axis in a perfect spiral, perfect direction and speed – smack into Jacobson's perfect catching zone.
Hell, Aaron Smith would have been proud of it. It was a thing of beauty, almost physically impossible, completely undoing the Pumas defenders. It was so unexpected, Jacobson might have been forgiven if he'd dropped it. Not really, though – he'd more likely have been sent down the road with the team's laundry and told not to come back until he'd eaten a roadkill sandwich and found a stick with a nail in it with which to self-flagellate during self-isolation.
There are two or three All Blacks who can produce slip passes using the wrong hand in a tackle (the left hand is normally used to propel a pass to the right and vice versa). But this was a test match, Barrett was moving at high velocity and the tackler was impeding him.
The issue stemming from this is not so much Barrett vs Richie Mo'unga for the 10 jersey (though that too). It's more about what style the All Blacks will play, particularly when they are in the dying stages of this three-month, 10-test tour and the Irish and French are waiting, with ample opportunity to study them.
It brings to mind the match All Blacks fans remember only too well – the 2019 World Cup loss to England where the opposing pack and defence clearly trumped the All Blacks. England played some good rugby that day too.
This All Black team can play it tight and fall back on some good pick-and-go stuff when defences repel efforts to go wide; they did for some small time against the Pumas.
However, Barrett's pass, and the creativity and skill it represents, raises hopes they keep their attacking intent. Sure, they may fall to a smothering job and they may well have to play tighter to combat the rush defences of the north.
But they should stay true to their attacking nature – not just because it's what we like watching but because it is better for the game, particularly after the kill-me-now boredom of the Lions v Boks recently.
Test match rugby sometimes demands a change of tactics but maybe the words of the late, great T.P. McLean, writing after the All Blacks lost yet another series in South Africa in 1976, should hold sway.
He softened his criticism because of the All Blacks' "captivating" attacking abilities: "Adolescents could become exhilarated and transported and vow they too must experience this exhilarating pleasure [of playing such rugby]," he wrote. "Seeing the other sort, the hard and brutal confrontation…the same adolescents could vow never to become the cannon fodder of a game so dull, so dismal, so devoid of intellectual appeal."
Forty-five years on, those words have even more the ring of truth about them. Maybe the All Blacks shouldn't have to be standard-bearers…but it's good when they are.