All Black wonder wing Rieko Ioane certainly knows how to make late runs for glory. His brace of tries stamped out the Welsh dragon’s fire and he may have also overtaken his rivals for IRB Player of the Year.
The 20-year-old sensation was a handful all match in Cardiff but he saved his best for the moments when the All Blacks really needed him. With the score tantalisingly poised at 19-11, Ioane anticipated a blindside move from a Welsh scrum near the halfway line, gambled and raced forward to intercept a Dan Biggar pass and sped to the line.
Wales, to their credit, hit right back and a series of punishing drives for the line eventually led to an All Black victim: captain Sam Whitelock, carded on 67 minutes.
Two minutes later, with the Cardiff crowd in full voice, Gareth Davies took advantage of the shortage of defence and outpaced TJ Perenara to the try line. A Halfpenny conversion, and Wales at 26-18, still had ten minutes to end a 63-year drought against 14 men.
But the All Blacks had other ideas. A brilliant set move 40 metres out saw TJ Perenara send a fast pass to replacement fly-half Lima Sopoaga who ran a narrow angle and passed beyond the rampaging Sonny Bill Williams decoy run which drew two defenders back to Perenara.
The Hurricanes half-back sent the ball past the second onrushing decoy runner, Anton Liernert Brown and into the arms of their main weapon, Ioane who now had clear space to wind into gear.
Ioane did just that, surging into the gap and slamming down what is becoming a trademark one-handed try plant before Welsh wings Scott Hamilton and Hallam Amos could provide cover.
It was a try for the ages, one which will send shudders among opposition coaches whose suspicions that the All Blacks were holding back some tricks were confirmed, and one which marked Ioane as truly something special.
Ioane now has eleven tries in 12 games against top-drawer opposition.
All Black coach Steve Hansen, who usually manages to keep a lid on his emotions, let his pot boil over a touch when he enthused after the game:
“Rieko [Ioane] is only 20. He’s phenomenal, if we can keep his feet on the floor he can be very special that kid.”
Can be? Steve, he already is.