The All Blacks got their 2019 Rugby World Cup off to a winning start as they turned on the style brilliantly to blitz the Springboks 23-13 in Yokohama City.
South Africa sprang into life against the two-time defending world champions but only had a Handre Pollard penalty to show for their early efforts. New Zealand then got into gear as George Bridge and Scott Barrett went over in quick succession.
The Boks were much better after the interval as two giants of world rugby put on a show, and Pieter-Steph du Toit swan-dived over to get them back in it. But the All Blacks retained a degree of order with two late penalties keeping them in control.
Here, we analyse a stunning performance from New Zealand talisman Beauden Barrett.
A lot was made of Steve Hansen’s selections coming into a crucial World Cup opener against a side that have beaten them and secured a draw in the last 12 months.
Chief among them was shunting the instrumental Barrett to full-back so as to allow another playmaker, Richie Mo’unga, to share dual playmaking abilities.
In essence Barrett was still the man, flawless in both defence and attack. With New Zealand under the cosh in the first 20 minutes he was coolness personified and was then in the thick of the action when the All Blacks burst into life with two tries in four minutes.
Under intense pressure following a Cheslin Kolbe break when South Africa rallied early in the second half, Barrett received possession in his own in-goal area after a superb tackle on Kolbe by Mo’unga.
Flustered? Flawless more like as the full-back ran it out of the danger zone and the Blacks almost broke loose.
A minute later he was taking a Sevu Reece pass on the right wing and launching his team forward, an outrageous banana grubber kick somehow stayed in play and almost led to a try-scoring chance.
Points – 3
Runs – 17
Metres made – 56
Carries – 16
Passes – 12
Handling errors – 0
Defenders beaten – 7
Tackles – 2
Missed tackles – 4
Turnovers conceded – 2
GOT RIGHT – STRING-PULLER EXTRAORDINAIRE
Think you’re safe from him, or his influence on a game is diminished by pushing him back to full-back while promoting Mo’unga to 10? Forget about it. Mo’unga is a marvellous talent who has some serious playmaking ability. He may even be wearing the hallowed No10 jersey at the beginning of this World Cup. But Barrett is still the brains.
The Blues star remains his nation’s most pivotal playmaker even if he may be sat deeper. In fact, at 15 he is able to scan the entire field ahead of him. And when you’re one of the game’s most gifted visionaries, you’re able to suddenly see method in Hansen’s madness.
Not only was Barrett coolness personified as South Africa squeezed early on, calmly clearing his lines when handed a hot potato by Reece, he was the conductor when New Zealand cranked the volume up.
He made 30 metres, with only Anton Lienert-Brown beating more defenders in the first half. Only three more players made more metres, only two beat more defenders.
GOT WRONG – RISKY BUSINESS
A tiny blotch on his match card was allowing a degree of sloppiness to creep into his game. There was a glut of missed tackles (4) and two turnovers conceded in his own half, but it feels like we’re desperately clutching at straws just so we can find a flaw – which we are.
Because in reality Barrett could not be faulted. Against high quality opposition, you always expect to be tested, and New Zealand were. But for any fault found, Barrett was unflappable.
After a scintillating performance for the @AllBlacks against South Africa, Beauden Barrett was named the @Mastercard Player of the Match #StartSomethingPriceless #POTM #RWC2019 #NZLvRSA pic.twitter.com/D9BOmsia8n— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 21, 2019
Wherever he bases himself on the field, Barrett can beat you – evidenced best by electing to run a turnover from the shadow of their own posts. There is nothing he doesn’t feel can be achieved.
There were a plethora of impressive pieces of play you could pick to highlight his influence. But an outrageous piece of play from an outrageous talent is Barrett in a nutshell.
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