The New Zealand media have come down hard on the All Blacks’ sloppy second half against France in Paris, decrying the team’s development of a ‘split personality’ in which they mix sublime play with ridiculous in equal measure.
The scoreline, 38-18, says the All Blacks were convincing winners at the Stade de France, after cantering out to a 31-5 lead at half-time.
However, the All Blacks were held scoreless in the second half until Waisake Naholo’s late try in the 79th minute.
This was not good enough for the New Zealand Herald’s Gregor Paul, who slated the team for being ‘brilliant one moment, awful the next.’
Paul provided evidence for his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ reference, noting the second half meltdown against the Wallabies in Sydney after building another huge first half lead; a second in the Dunedin rematch, an error-ridden 20-minute plunge in New Plymouth against Argentina and finally ’40 ugly, ugly minutes in Paris’.
In his article, Paul barely mentioned the French side’s brave comeback, instead stating that ‘All Blacks’ discipline left the building and their basic skills deserted them.
Coach Steve Hansen at least managed to acknowledge that there were two teams in the contest and that part of the reason for the All Blacks’ second half slump was the renaissance in spirit and precision of the French, led by half-back Antoine Dupont.
After the game, Hansen said:
“I think we lost our discipline and as a result of that we allowed the momentum to shift and the French were good enough to put us under pressure. I was very happy with the way we fought our way through it and we scored enough points in the first half to get the job done.”
Hansen tried to bring some sense of reason to a press conference in which it seemed the All Blacks had lost by 20 points rather than won.
“It is very difficult on sporting occasions for any team to hold the momentum for the duration of the contest. Once we lost it the French team got confidence and put us under pressure. We gave eleven penalties away in the second half and some of them were for pretty basic things like being offside.”
It is a pity for this team that the Mr Hyde side of their ‘personality’ seems to hog the headlines in New Zealand because their absolutely sublime first 40 minutes in which they showed brilliant handling and sublime skills in wet conditions deserves greater recognition.
The All Blacks scored four tries in the first half and the two by Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty would make the highlight reel of any international tries in 2017.
This neverending quest for perfection demanded by the public and magnified by the media is the fuel that sustains the World Champion’s motivation. And until the ‘Hyde’ side of their personality begins to dominate games, the All Blacks still have enough brilliance to come out on top of almost all of their contests.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena