Sky Sports’ rugby stats guru, Rhodri Jeremiah, takes a closer look at Beauden Barrett’s record-breaking performance, Michael Cheika’s 50th Test in charge of the Wallabies, and Argentina’s revenge on South Africa.
What a performance, and what a player! On Saturday, Beauden Barrett proved to all the remaining doubters that he is most definitely New Zealand’s first-choice fly-half, and by quite some distance.
Not only was Barrett’s performance breath-taking, it was also record-breaking.
Barrett scored four tries and slotted five conversions in a history-making 30-point haul. Former fly-half Andrew Mehrtens held the previous record for the most points scored against Australia with 29, which he set at Eden Park during the 1999 Tri Nations.
3:20 Highlights of New Zealand's 40-12 win over Australia
The current Kiwi 10 also broke the record for most tries scored by a starting fly-half in a Test match. No previous stand-off had scored four tries in a single international prior to Saturday.
As for the overall record, Ashley Billington is the man to have scored the most tries in an international. The full-back scored 10 tries for Hong Kong against Singapore in a World Cup qualifier in Kuala Lumpur in 1994. Hong Kong scored 26 tries in total in the 164-13 win. A couple of days later, Billington was on the scoresheet again, this time scoring a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei.
Barrett has also now overtaken Dan Carter in scoring more tries for the All Blacks. Carter, now playing in Japan, scored 29 tries in 112 Test appearances. Barrett has scored 30 tries in his 66 run-outs – almost half of Carter’s appearances.
As well as his 30-point contribution, the 27-year-old also made 18 carries, 147 metres, and beat seven defenders.
It must have felt like a case of déjà vu for Australia head coach Michael Cheika when watching his side’s second-half display in Auckland. In Round 1 in Sydney, Australia’s defence leaked 33 points in the second half. In Auckland, New Zealand scored 26 points in the second period.
Australia missed 39 tackles in Bledisloe II, with Marika Koroibete and Kurtley Beale missing six apiece. You can’t expect to beat the best team in the world if you miss that many tackles.
And if it hadn’t have been for David Pocock, New Zealand would have scored far more. The Australia No 8 played the whole 80 minutes, making 18 tackles without missing any. He also won two turnovers, adding to the argument that he was Australia’s best performer on the day.
Cheika has come in for some stinging criticism since Saturday’s defeat. New Zealand’s victories in Bledisloe I and II mean that the Kiwis retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th year in succession.
Rugby Australia’s chief executive Raelene Castle came out in support of Cheika, but stated that the governing body “can’t just ignore” the recent displays.
She commented: “He’s contracted through to the World Cup. He’s got a plan, we’re across that plan, we’re comfortable with it. But clearly, you can’t just ignore the performances, they’re not acceptable.
“So, it’s about what can we do to support him as an organisation, to make sure he’s got what he needs to make sure the Wallabies are successful as we lead into that World Cup. Certainly, from our perspective, the board and myself, our support’s behind Michael Cheika.”
The Wallaby boss led Australia for the 50th time in Auckland, and in those 50 Tests he has an overall success rate of exactly 50 per cent. Even worse, away from home Australia have 13 defeats from their 24 games played under Cheika.
Australia vs South Africa
September 8, 2018, 10:30am
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Argentina gained revenge on the Springboks with a 32-19 win in Mendoza in Round 2. Leading 27-7 at half-time, the Pumas were on course to record a comfortable win. However, the Boks came back into the game in the second half with a brace from Lionel Mapoe. It was a case of too little, too late though, as Agustin Creevy and his side held on to seal only their third ever win over South Africa.
The Pumas made 169 tackles compared to South Africa’s 90. The top five tacklers in the game were all Argentine, with captain Creevy leading by example with 18 of them. Winger Bautista Delguy also had a game to remember; he scored a brace, made nine carries, 64 metres and beat 10 defenders.
South Africa head coach, Rassie Erasmus, labelled his side’s performance “embarrassing”. He has reportedly called up Duane Vermeulen ahead of the Boks’ tie against Australia in Brisbane next week, which shows where he thinks South Africa need to improve.
Against England in June, Vermeulen was South Africa’s main man, at his destructive best in the second Test in particular. In Bloemfontein he made eight carries, 46 metres and beat six defenders whilst also crossing over for a try. If the Boks are to get their Rugby Championship campaign back on track, that’s the kind of impact they need from Vermeulen.
2:43 Highlights of Argentina's 32-19 victory over South Africa
Momentum with the All Blacks
Two rounds have now been played in the 2018 Rugby Championship, and it’s only New Zealand that have had consistency in their performances so far. All of the other three nations have lost at least one game, which has already put distance between the All Blacks and the chasing pack.
With the World Cup fast approaching, that inconsistency will be a concern for Cheika, Erasmus and Mario Ledesma.
New Zealand vs Argentina
September 8, 2018, 8:00am
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Since the World Cup in October 2015, the All Blacks have a success rate of 90 per cent, while South Africa have won 48 per cent of their games, Australia 43 per cent and Argentina 28 per cent. Telling stats given that these nations provided all four semi-finalists in that World Cup.
We all know that momentum is key in sport. Will anyone stop the All Blacks between now and Japan? It would take a brave person to bet on it.