The Hurricanes vs Blues game was supposed to be an All Black trial. However, Beauden Barrett dominated the match to such an extent that there seemed to be two games going on: Beauden’s game and something else much more mediocre. Will Barrett do the same to the Lions?
One play in the Blues game summed up his freakish skills and dominance. At 27 minutes, Blake Gibson threw a high-ish pass which went through the hands of an onrushing Sonny Bill Williams. Barrett immediately radared in on the opportunity and half-volleyed the ball up in the air (not an easy thing to do). He then tore forward and got the bounce (does he ever not?) and outstripped the chasing speedsters Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane to run 70 metres to the tryline.
Barrett’s statistics for the game at Eden Park will make Lions fans shudder. One try, a whopping 204 metres run (the next highest in his team was his brother Jordy with 79m), four clean breaks, nine defenders beaten and one try assist. And this was achieved in 70 minutes of rugby as Barrett was sin-binned again for cynical spoiling play.
Some players would achieve the same stats in a season. Barrett’s next opposition at Eden Park will be the Lions.
Chris Rattue, the New Zealand Herald columnist who is never shy of making grand statements, wrote that in terms of sheer X-factor magic, Barrett is now ahead of luminaries Dan Carter, Jonah Lomu and David Campese. Rattue writes that only one player matches Barrett’s brilliance in all the years he has been watching rugby: Christian Cullen.
Rattue’s opinion is not a lone voice. Gregor Paul, also of the NZ Herald, rates Barrett as more dangerous a player than Dan Carter and is already counting the Lions as unlucky for touring when Barrett is in the form of his life. He predicts that Barrett may do what Carter did when he scored 33 points against the Lions in the second test in 2005.
After winning the IRB Player of the year last year, Barrett has wisely eased himself into his work this season, knowing that a heavy workload is scheduled.
After not overplaying his hand in the early rounds, in the last two games he has unleashed his devastating running game and the signs are that he may be even more dangerous than last year. In the two games against the Blues and Warratahs, he scored two tries, beaten 16 defenders, made eight clean breaks and four try assists. And before armchair critics question the quality of the opposition – seven players in both the Blues and Warratahs starting lineups have represented their countries at international level.
The Lions may have be able to control Barrett if they can keep the play structured and very, very accurate. As we saw on Saturday, Barrett’s vision, pace and skills in unstructured moments and open play are lethal and one wonders if the Lions’ combinations will have enough time to reach this level of understanding and accuracy. Be careful, Lions -there’s a sniper on the loose.
Take a look at Barrett’s masterclass throughout below:
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