The All Blacks’ disastrous dinner party continues

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By Highlander, Highlander is a Roar Rookie


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    The 2017 All Blacks have been like a progressive dinner party from the 1980s – around the same time that digital watches and fondues were a good idea – you have no idea what is coming up next and any discovered delicacy is no guarantee that a continued banquet of excellence is to follow.

    Last Saturday’s Test against France was an 80-minute precis of the entire season; 40 minutes of solid basics, forward-based, liberally sprinkled with black magic dust, which resulted in a commanding and ultimately unreachable lead of 31-5.

    The second stanza saw the return of an inexperienced and slightly directionless side, the hard, black veneer scratched to reveal a team exposed.

    So many false dawns, so much promise, and still that full 80-minute performance eludes them.

    Our misfiring dinner party has opened so often in reverse; a black forest trifle here, a substantial Banana split there, and just as we look for a fine port to finish the evening, some bozo slips a cheap, insulin-challenging dessert wine into the mix and we are all left disappointed.

    The opening gambit against an overwhelmed Samoa, a tactical masterclass in the first Test, the opening 50 minutes of Bledisloe 1, Albany – ahh, we’ll always have Albany, where the Springboks simply did not know which way to look next – and the first half in Paris were all quality.

    But ultimately, they were brief displays.

    What is genuinely galling is that when they hit these standards, no one can go with them, but a lack of composure and execution continue to haunt this side.

    The first half in France really looked like so many of the season’s prior challenges had been put firmly behind them.

    Beauden Barrett and Sonny Bill Williams seemed to have declunked the funk in their collective junk, the forwards were again laying an excellent platform (a couple of good French scrums aside), Sam Cane was rampant both in tight and as the link between the forwards and the princesses, Damian McKenzie was making proper Test-level decisions and restricting his sideways running, Dane Coles was focusing on his own game instead of gobbing off at everyone within a two-kilometre radius, and that was a high-quality cameo before injury claimed him after 25 minutes.

    The only real downside was the inability of Vaea Fafita to inject himself into the contest again.

    I am still not sure that head chef Steve Hansen doesn’t seek to deliberately stress this team out. Why, when you have lost Coles to injury and your skipper to a precautionary early sit-down, do you drag Aaron Smith and take off Ryan Crotty, while keeping the law-book-challenged SBW out on the park, thus leaving only Sam Whitelock and Cane as genuine leaders?

    We are now only a couple of weeks away from the end of the season and standards demand a complete performance before minds drift to the Christmas menu.

    You can keep your sausages wrapped in bacon, cheese and pineapple served on the same stick, and shrimp cocktails. I want a single serving of solid, Kiwi excellence before we close.

    I’ll have 80 minutes of the pork bones and puha, thanks.

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    The Crowd Says (153)

    • Roar Guru

      November 14th 2017 @ 3:04am
      Harry Jones said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:04am | ! Report

      Now I’m hungry.

      Well-written …

      • November 14th 2017 @ 5:31am
        Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:31am | ! Report

        Thanks Harry
        Here’s hoping you guys have a improved couple of weeks.
        Ireland were very good

    • Roar Guru

      November 14th 2017 @ 3:35am
      Carlos the Argie said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:35am | ! Report

      Very nice. But, I guess that most kiwis, deep down inside, would rather know this problem now and not in Japan in 2019.

      As I said before, we have a Kiwi restaurant nearby, where they bring the green lip mussels, cloudy bay clams, elk, lamb and other delicacies from NZ. They make a great Pavlova. Plus the pinots and sauv blancs. I will let chef Gwithyen cook and leave policeman Steve to coach.

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 3:55am
        Harry Jones said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:55am | ! Report

        Do you like paella?

        • November 14th 2017 @ 4:34am
          mace22 said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:34am | ! Report

          Tacos are tasty .

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 5:04am
            Carlos the Argie said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

            LA has great “gourmet” tacos. Yes, it is not an oxymoron. You can haver “gourmet” tacos….

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:42pm
              Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

              sorry i cant give u link , but if u look in YOUTUBE there will be a short clip about Tacos as performed by TREVOR NOAH 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                November 16th 2017 @ 3:10am
                Carlos the Argie said | November 16th 2017 @ 3:10am | ! Report

                Noah the funny Saffa in America….

                My son lives in the border of Brentwood and Santa Monica. He is (heavily) subsidized by his dad for his living expenses. He is an expert on truck food, in particular tacos. He can tell you the best of the best any day….

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 5:03am
          Carlos the Argie said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:03am | ! Report

          Paella is from Valencia. A few years ago, a good friend took me to this dive spot way out of the tourist migration routes in Valencia to eat a proper paella. This was memorable!

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 5:55am
            Harry Jones said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:55am | ! Report

            I think–when it’s good–paella is one of the best dishes ever!!

            • November 14th 2017 @ 10:51am
              zhenry said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              The journalists on here are enthused so Highlander must have the right subtext; too many food adjectives for my palette, and much fun being made of the negatives of present AB play; which is common practice (add negative name calling) on AU media.
              And don’t tell me to stick with NZ media because AU media is NZ media.
              No serious discussion of real issues. The AU media may throw up there hands about WBy performance but generally there is an honest attempt to offer solutions.
              Interesting to hear reported comments from English players; ‘beware the WBs are coming’, never heard the report that ‘beware the ABs are coming’ (Scotland have many injuries but England no more than other teams).
              For the ABs it’s mostly negative; past their prime, slip on a banana skin, peaking too early, their beatable and so on; never seen WBs described as such, it’s mostly the most positive take.
              The problem, it matters: If ABs read these constant negatives about themselves it has its effect, and the media knows it.
              It seems also that Hansen believes the propaganda that the media keeps everyone honest; a media that ‘presents’ information mostly on behalf of the 1% or one of its main interests, can not be honest.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 11:30am
                ShaghaiDoc said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                Palette? Whoops! Palate?
                Green mussels with chili. A fine Chinese dish. lol.
                The dish the All Blacks are preparing is English Stew. I can’t wait for Japan 2019. They already cook a fine Wallaby Stew and the Celtic dishes can all be relied upon to choke in the QF.
                At the last RWC Hansen forbade certain tactics in the early rounds to put pressure on his players. They were let off the hook for the French and only the rain and eccentric officiating slowed them in the last two games.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 6:14pm
                Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

                Probably lucky I abandoned the original idea of comparing this season to the 9 circles of Dantes Inferno, that would have set you right off!!

              • November 16th 2017 @ 9:15am
                zhenry said | November 16th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

                Go the whole hog, why not Wagner’s immolation scene of Brünnhilde? Wagner did read a passage of Dante every morning before he composed; about the only positive from the lackey and spelling freak responses to my above comment.

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 6:29pm
          Machooka said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

          Love paella Harry… it’s soul food for the unwashed.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 6:34pm
            Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

            something funny about Paella.

            it is Spanish but mainly a rice dish. it is pronounced Paiyya.

            that pronunciation for some Asian countries means the P-word 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 8:25pm
          Kia Kaha said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

          Nothing quite like coming off from the beach in summer, taking shelter from the midday (which in Spain is 2pm!) sun and sitting down to a ?, with plenty of red wine, a few chupitos of licor de hierbas and then going back to the beach to have a snooze in the shade of the sun umbrella. God life in Spain is tough. ?

          • Roar Guru

            November 15th 2017 @ 3:45am
            Carlos the Argie said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:45am | ! Report

            The funny thing I remember from that lunch was the comment that the bottom of the pan rice was burnt. And that reminded me of my ex-wife who would burn everything she cooked. She once managed to burn boiled eggs, a soup…

            The Spaniards (or they were Catalans that day and one Valenciano) were outraged I called their rice burnt. But the Persians and other middle east cultures also “burn” the rice and have it as a delicacy.

            Kia Kaha, we used to have “clericó” in the summer heat. This is sangria made with white wine.

            • Roar Guru

              November 15th 2017 @ 7:15am
              Kia Kaha said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

              Sounds refreshing.

              Not sure about burnt but definitely like the crispy rice at the bottom.

              Am in awe of friends who cook their paella on the bbq and manage to not burn it. The stock made up of ? is crucial to add to the areas that dry up under the heat.

              • Roar Guru

                November 15th 2017 @ 7:23am
                Carlos the Argie said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

                I know, crispy. I was just making some noise.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 6:12am
        Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:12am | ! Report

        All sounds good Carlos……and Elk is called Wapati down here, before you get bombarded with the NZ doesn’t have elk responses

        And yes, best to have these issues now, lots of new players and game plans being tried, and in my quieter moments this is all well understood, but its damned frustrating to watch at game time!

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Carlos the Argie said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          • November 14th 2017 @ 6:14pm
            Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report


        • November 17th 2017 @ 3:28pm
          Muzzo said | November 17th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

          Hahaha Highlander, the old Wapiti!! Yeh mate back in the day, I was fortunate enough to score, one of them in the Arawata Valley, just near Jackson’s Bay, on the West Coast. A beautiful part of NZ.

      • November 16th 2017 @ 12:15am
        Steve Wright said | November 16th 2017 @ 12:15am | ! Report

        Where do you get ELK from – your ear?

    • November 14th 2017 @ 4:16am
      mace22 said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:16am | ! Report

      Won by 20 points, no complaining by me.

      Love what Hansen is doing. He’s deliberately putting the AB’s under pressure, they learned more from this game than the 2015 RWC thrashing they gave france. Eddie Jones understands what Hansen is up to.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 4:18am
        ScottD said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:18am | ! Report

        Yes. Better to take the longer view.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 4:17am
      ScottD said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:17am | ! Report

      A fairly frank assessment. Personally, I would be happier with where the AB’s are at now (with obvious flaws in between flashes of brilliance) than if they were looking perfect. It means they will not end up believing their own BS leading into 2019. Of course, at some point they have to fix the flaws but if they know they’re there then at least we can be confident they won’t be overlooked.

      Hopefully they also lose a game in 2018 and one in the middle of 2019. If they don’t then they won’t win the world cup!!

      • November 14th 2017 @ 4:38am
        mace22 said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:38am | ! Report

        They will definitely lose to australia and lose the RC, if the last 2 RWC years are to go by.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 5:37am
          Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:37am | ! Report

          It’s a tradeoff we would all be prepared to make again mace.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            @ Highlander

            do u know why Barrett is captain rather than Whitelock or Cane??

            Barrett does not even captain a provincial or super rugger team.

            Big Sam is the super rugger winning captain !!!

            IMO he is even better than READ. simply becoz captaincy has changed Read’s game ; where as SW plays the same captain or not.

            and Read played better under SW for Crusaders.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 6:11pm
              Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

              No idea mate, best guess, enhanced leadership responsibility

              • November 15th 2017 @ 9:27am
                Old Bugger said | November 15th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

                My best guess, is Fozzie has a bee under his bonnet about backs, being captains…..he was one if, you can recall….??

    • November 14th 2017 @ 5:06am
      Rhys Bosley said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:06am | ! Report

      The reality is that until 2015 the All Blacks had an extraordinary cohort of senior players, who took luck out of the equation when they played. The players who have replaced them are are very good, but not quite of the same calibre as the class of 2015. And they don’t have the depth in key positions that they have previously enjoyed.

      They are still the best in the World, but their fortunes will be far more governed by chance than they have been.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 5:36am
        Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:36am | ! Report

        Fair assessment Rhys and most have not noticed how inexperienced at test level this side is, the backs particular , probably because they super rugby familiar, but Ioane, Naholo, Jordie, Laumape, ALB, McKenzie ( this kid drives me nuts, so much promise ) even Milner Scudder don’t have much test experience under their belts.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 9:15am
          Rhys Bosley said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          In reality I just don’t think Mackenzie is big enough for test rugby, he just bounced off Korobete in Brisbane and Koro isn’t even that big.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 10:23am
            scottd said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            reminds me of Hewson in terms of size

            • November 14th 2017 @ 10:39pm
              Rhys Bosley said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

              Yeah, Hewson springs to mind for me too.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 3:50pm
            Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

            just like Cheslin Kolbe. I just think DMac will be great in 7S where speed and spatial awareness is more important.

            i mean look at Kwagga Smith – a very small flanker but a great 7S player 🙂

          • November 14th 2017 @ 6:40pm
            Jacko said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

            I dont agree about his size at all….His mistakes have been about his enthusasium for attack rather than his physical size….He has no problem tackling anyone he comes up against and in his first couple of tests he was getting isolated and having the ball stripped, but that has now stopped also…A bit of experience is doing wonders for him and altho he is peobably the no 3 fullback for the ABs he is not letting them down and is proving a very high qualitry attacker with that brilliant speed.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 10:44pm
              Rhys Bosley said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

              He has a big problem tackling Korobete, who isn’t even 100kg.

              Smith, Dagg and J. Barrett are all better fullbacks, once the ABs get down to McKenzie they are in trouble with cover defence.

          • November 16th 2017 @ 12:34pm
            frisky said | November 16th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            I agree with the comment on McKenzie being a weak last line of defence. Do not doubt his courage, but he is easily bumped off when close to the line.
            Whenever I wonder why he is in the AB, he produces speed and line breaks which win the game. Pity he does not make it at #10. Can he be groomed in that position?

    • Roar Guru

      November 14th 2017 @ 6:40am
      Kia Kaha said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Really enjoyable article, Highlander.

      There really has been a smorgasbord of delicacy and refinery mixed in with some befuddling combinations; a fusion of miscalculated choices and overeager ambition.

      Some has been the deliberate design of head chef Hansen and some dishes have been forced upon him. Losing your front row at various stages (both first-choice props out for most of the season and Coles injury- or concussion-prone), your first-choice lock, fullback and centre are enough to wreak havoc with any team.

      Despite the many culinary mis-steps this year, I do feel I’ve got my money’s worth. The front row replacements have been exceptional as has that NZ scrum. The lock stocks are looking equally healthy. I like the industry of Todd and think not just Julian needs to work on his game. Physicality, speed, power, finesse are all things you want in a back row but I believe we’re very much at a developmental stage at the moment. You could argue, therefore, that this year has been a necessary step in the evolution of our back row.

      Aaron Smith has returned as the premier halfback and Perenara would do well to have a genuine third option breathing down his neck as he seems to have slipped a little. Beauden Barrett continues to confound his goal-kicking critics with 100 per cent against France and some really difficult kicks. But his game management in the tight games remains suspect and his replacements haven’t exactly shone in that area when they’ve been involved.

      Sonny Bill had a strong game until he decided to do a league impression. I think for all the rotation Lienefrt-Brown has been underutilized this year and Goodhue is probably too young to get into contention for 2019 (even though he has the talent) but I think he’s one for the future and Crotty plays as well as organises better at 12. But Sonny keeps getting the nod, which suggests he brings something to the team that the wise men feel is important.

      Ioane has been a revelation but NMS is injury-prone and Naholo is a mixed bag. There’s one wing spot definitely still up for grabs and McKenzie’s potential move to 10 for the Chiefs is an interesting development but we’ve been lucky to have his services this season and I enjoy seeing the kid play even though he exasperates me at times.

      So many players to come back next year and probably a few faces to enter the equation (Aumua is excitement bottled and preserved). Lots to work on but much that has been worked on this year and that can only be good for the development of the palate.

      Thanks again and bring on the grub!

      • November 14th 2017 @ 6:59am
        Fionn said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

        I wonder if we might not see Ben Smith back to 14 in the next few years, and one of the Barretts to fullback.

        Why aren’t you happy with Naholo? I thought his main problem was, like Milner-Skudder, he got injured too often?

        • November 14th 2017 @ 7:05am
          Highlander said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

          True Fionn, Waisake has had a horribly interrupted couple of years with quite serious injury.
          I thought he has looked very good this season and will benefit from an extended run in the side .
          Got to the best back at pilfer time now too I would think.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 10:41am
          taylorman said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          If theres one faux pas Hansen has I think its not having Barrett permanently at FB. I’d be putting Smith either on the wing or at 13 in a Conrad Smith type role. Ioane Barrett and any of Smith, Savea, Skudder, Dagg, Naoholo on the right wing is as good as we can get I believe.

          That opens the way for a new 10 to consolidate there as Barrett is just too hot and cold in the position. Always has been.

          But agree with this experimentation, and through it one or two gems are going to come out of it…they always do.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 11:12am
            Council said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

            Smith has been tried and was average at 13 a few years back.

            I’m guessing you missed Barrett’s player of the year performance then?

            Barrett has been hot and cold, though the way the forward back has been attacked at times it doesn’t surprise me. And the way Barrett has steered the Black and Canes the last couple of years proves that he has game management.

            Not too the level of Carter of course but he is the best we, or almost any other nation has.

            I believe, like a few others here, that Hansen is pulling his RWC shenanigans on us this year to try out different tactics and putting us under pressure to see how we handle it.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 12:48pm
              Fionn said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

              Does it? I thought Barrett’s game management for the Canes was really poor in a lot of the Canes’ clashes with other Kiwi sides. I agree with Taylorman that he is a bit too hot and cold in the position. He was hot in 2016, but has been cold in a lot of big matches in 2017: Canes vs Chiefs both times, Canes vs Crusaders, Lions 2 and 3.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:55pm
              Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

              NZ dont play like Hurricanes. NZ play like Crusaders.

              B Smith’s best years on the wing coincided with Dagg at 15. Dagg creator – Smith finisher.

              Who knows , maybe BB can also be the same.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 10:27am
                Jerry said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

                Correlation is not causation. I’d imagine the vast majority of his tests at wing featured Israel Dagg as their careers have overlapped to a large degree.

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Kia Kaha said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          The right wing spot is up for grabs simply because no one has been able to lock it down like Ioane has due to injury. Dagg, Naholo, Smith, NMS have all looked good enough but just haven’t strung enough games together.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 3:57pm
            Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

            who knows , maybe Savea will come back in a fresh avatar – all lean and mean.

            • Roar Guru

              November 14th 2017 @ 5:18pm
              Machpants said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

              He is lean ATM just not so much mean!

              • November 14th 2017 @ 5:33pm
                Cuw said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

                i thought its the other way around 😛

              • Roar Guru

                November 14th 2017 @ 9:01pm
                Wal said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:01pm | ! Report

                He was pretty impressive during the Mitre 10 cup, I think he’ll be back.
                More importantly, he looked like he was having a blast.