With two Rugby World Cup victories, a slew of dominant victories and an unprecedented run of victories, this decade has been extremely fruitful for the All Blacks. However, amongst all that success, there have also been some surprise defeats and disappointing results. As the decade nears an end, Liam Napier lists the All Blacks' best and worst of the past 10 years.
The best ...
The 2011 World Cup semifinal
There have been much more fluent, free-flowing victories over the neighbours. Few, though, that demonstrate raw power so compellingly on such an important stage. Harnessing the reminder of their pre-tournament loss in Brisbane, whether it was in the scrum, the breakdown or on defence, the All Blacks crushed the Wallabies on a memorable night at Eden Park. The 20-6 margin of victory does not reveal the extent of their dominance. Who could forget Jerome Kaino manhandling Digby Ioane, Israel Dagg's facials with his skip and one-handed offload to Ma'a Nonu, or Richie McCaw playing as if his foot wasn't broken? If only it could have been so smooth the following week.
The 2013 Dublin victory
It wasn't the perfect performance from the All Blacks by any stretch. The 24-22 victory did, however, clinch the only unbeaten season of the professional era in the most dramatic fashion. What a season this was from the All Blacks, one unlikely to ever be repeated. France, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, England, Japan and Ireland all defeated. 14 tests, 14 wins. This run included, in my view, the greatest test of all time, the 38-27 victory at Ellis Park where the lead changed eight times. For all the brilliance of this season, the All Blacks had to come back from 15-0 in Dublin and set up Ryan Crotty's extra time try which showcased their unwavering belief and skill. Even then, Aaron Cruden needed two attempts to knock over the match-winning conversion.
The 2015 World Cup quarter-final
The night Julian Savea evoked visions of the late Jonah Lomu. Dan Carter turned back the clock with a masterful display to regain his confidence with one sublime fend and offload in the same movement as the demons of '07 were dealt to. Fears of another Cardiff calamity quickly dissolved as Brodie Retallick charged down Frederic Michalak to claim the first of nine tries in the 62-13 demolition job. This time it was France, powerless on a rare night where everything clicked for the All Blacks, who trudged off embarrassed. Backs and forwards linked, freakish offloads stuck and the foot kept on the throat from go to woe. You could not have asked for anything more.
The 2017 Albany victory
South Africa, a proud, passionate rugby nation, was brought to their knees as the All Blacks scored eight tries in the 57-0 record-breaking rout which ended Allister Coetzee's term as Springboks coach. It was no coincidence this result marked Wayne Smith's final test on home soil. Respect for the professor is such that the All Blacks were always going to front. Yet not even Smith expected this staunch flex. The shutout sure made the defence coach proud. Aaron Smith produced the play of the night with one of the best try-assists you will witness – his quick tap and kick in behind laying the opening try on a silver platter for Rieko Ioane. The flick ball from Beauden Barrett to Nehe Milner-Skudder wasn't bad, either.
The 2019 World Cup quarter-final
Two wins in the last three tests against the All Blacks had Ireland pegged as the new nemesis. With the last loss in Dublin fresh in minds, worry was a wasted emotion. Kieran Read produced a colossus performance to lead the All Blacks to their 46-14 statement victory which, ultimately, proved a false dawn. Against Ireland, the All Blacks were so dominant they led 34-0, holding Joe Schmidt's men scoreless for 68 minutes. This night in Yokohama they were exceptionally clinical. The victims of Andy Farrell's defensive pressure previously, this time the All Blacks' speed and width repeatedly turned the tables to cripple Irish dreams.
... and the worst
The 2012 Twickenham defeat
When the extent of the sickness which swept through the All Blacks later emerged, the nature of their flat performance in the 38-21 defeat to England started to make sense. The All Blacks, generally, don't lose many tests. Here they were well off the pace as Manu Tuilagi and company had a field day. Turns out all but two All Blacks were hit by diarrhoea and vomiting, leaving them gassed for game day. Post match Steve Hansen had to bite his tongue as members of the English press – three years out from the global tournament – asked whether he could 'see the makings of a World Cup winning team'. Replays of this test remain regular features on Sky Sport UK before and after live rugby fixtures.
The 2016 Chicago defeat
Losing to anyone for the first time stings. After 111 years and 29 attempts, Ireland finally broke their duck against the All Blacks. It was a momentous occasion for Joe Schmidt's men at Soldier Field, one that ultimately set them on their way to becoming the most dominant team in 2018, when they again made history by beating the All Blacks in Dublin for the first time. In Chicago, the All Blacks were guilty of taking their eyes off the prize. They were complacent; swept up in the Cubs' remarkable ride to the World Series. Distractions at any level are dangerous, and so it proved here as Ireland seized their chance with an inspired performance.
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The 2017 British and Irish Lions series
The Lions series remains a pinnacle event that sticks in the craw. It does so because the All Blacks blew several chances to put the Lions away. The first test could hardly have been better executed – the plan of playing off Aaron Smith and being direct with forward runners surprised and exposed the Lions. That was as good as it got, though. Sonny Bill Williams' 24th minute red card significantly hurt the All Blacks in Wellington but they still went away from intentions to use the ball in the wet. And in the decider, the All Blacks started brilliantly only to blow three first-half tries and leave themselves vulnerable to being duded by a poor refereeing decision at the death. From a New Zealand perspective, a drawn series is still difficult to stomach.
The 2019 World Cup semifinal
Few saw this 19-7 loss coming. After one of the most complete performances of the four-year cycle, the comedown could be no sharper, no more humbling. England were supreme. Their defensive linespeed, ball carriers and physicality all rattled the All Blacks, who were left flattered by the final scoreline. Hindsight is wonderful when it comes to selection but after the All Blacks put Ireland away so convincingly the previous week, discontent was muted at best. World Cup defeats hurt more than any others and so England's crushing blow now ranks alongside 1999 and 2003 as great disappointments that failed to reach the final. Expect this match to replace the 2012 victory and be replayed in England for years to come.