The All Black captain Kieran Read was truly outstanding in the First Test last Saturday.
The 2017 British and Irish Lions had no answer for his dynamic play, aggression and leadership. It was a performance for the ages. All of these attributes combined are something that Paul O’Connell, a previous Ireland and Lions captain, has said is very worrying for the Lions.
O’Connell mentioned pre-tour how Kieran Read had turned the All Black lineout from a weakness to a strength with his attacking and defensive calls. The lineout did not work as well as it should have for the home side and that is something they will be looking to rectify. Read will be in the thick of that. Expect a huge improvement this week from the All Blacks in this area.
The Captain’s Vision
When a penalty was awarded, we saw Read’s intelligence at work for the first All Black try. No rustiness here after seven weeks out, just a master tactician back at work.
While the opposition forwards were still collecting their breath, he saw a try opportunity out wide. Aaron Smith wanted to tap and go but Read pointed across the touchline and told Smith to send it wide. Smith did, and the ball was fired out to the wing where Codie Taylor was lurking. The hooker gathered a difficult low pass to score a well-orchestrated try.
Test matches are usually won up front
The Lions fancied their forward prowess coming into this test after overpowering and strangling Super Rugby sides. They were superior in the lineout, constantly pressuring NZ.
The All Black forwards dominated the Lions in the scrum and at the breakdown which proved far more valuable. Read at Number 8 played a significant role in this. In the 54th minute, Read controlled the ball with his feet while an impressive NZ scrum drove the Lions back. At the right moment, Read dived on the ball and made a great flick pass to Smith while under enormous pressure. It was as wonderful as Beauden Barrett’s one handed pickup earlier. Not bad for the first game back after a fractured thumb.
Smith delivered this pass wide, and Rieko Ioane scored the All Black’s second try in the corner.
The Test Series
It will be interesting to see what tactics both teams will employ in the remaining matches. But there is absolutely no doubt that Read will be a driving force once again. His post-match interview did not give much away that we didn’t already know. In typical All Blacks fashion, Read’s focus was already on winning the remaining tests.
With the sort of form he showed in the first test when he was expected to be rusty, I would suggest the Lions are going to have to up the ante in many areas. And that’s just to contain Read.
Author: Ivan de Farias
I’m an expat kiwi living across the ditch in Melbourne. I love sport especially soccer and rugby and it’s ironic that I can’t call either of them football as over here that is Australian rules.
I spend too much time staying up watching soccer at ungodly hours and playing fantasy football which I’m improving at.