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Rugby Is The Winner In Nelson!

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Rugby Is The Winner In Nelson!

Rugby Is The Winner In Nelson!

Nelson_NZvARG_2018_primary

AND the winner is…. Nelson!

It was bold of them to bid for a test, and it was bold of NZR to give it to them, but they came up trumps in every respect. 

The All Blacks did their bit, they were very visible, getting out into the community frequently and making simple but meaningful gestures that people will remember for a long time.

The weather behaved, and that was important. Trafalgar Park doesn’t have a lot of cover so if it had rained plenty of people would have got wet.

But then Nelson is the current sunniest place in New Zealand, so less of a risk than most other venues. And so the sun shone in the days before, and on the day of, and it was sunny the day after.

Bliss!

The city (population just over 50,000 and the whole region threw itself behind the test, closing off the main streets on game day, turning on plenty of entertainment, and creating a vibrant buzz.

People were drinking, but unlike Wellington for the sevens, for example, the local hospitality industry wasn’t out to try and tip as much booze down people’s throats as humanly possible. It was about the fun, the food, the families and the footy, and about making the most out of the day.

What we saw here, as we did on a slighter smaller stage in Tauranga last weekend, is a lesson in how to turn a great opportunity into a great occasion by engaging with the public.

Seriously, people in the bigger smokes need to take note.
 
THE test itself was a cracker.

People anticipating another stroll in the park for the ABs might have been pleasantly surprised at the way the Pumas challenged them.
Mario Ledesma is on track to have this team in good shape by next year’s World Cup.

There will be a few European based stars coming back into the frame, and he will find a way to get their scrum back to what it should be, and if so, look out.

They have a dangerous attack, with Emiliano Boffelli, Nico Sanchez and Ramiro Moyano up with the best backs on the field, and it in the end the gulf in the scores really came down to the All Blacks unrivalled ability to score from pretty much every opportunity.

Having said that, there was a lot to like about the All Blacks game.

They made seven changes from the Eden Park test, featured one of the least experienced 20-12-13 combos since the Baby Blacks, and lost their ace lock and their second five before the first half was up.

And yet they were able to absorb those changes and disruptions and come up with a performance that was at times quite spectacular.

They gave Shannon Frizzell every opportunity to shine in front of his home fans, and while the frenetic pace of the game might have taxed him towards the end, in the first half he was phenomenal as he ran hard onto those short passes that the All Black forwards have been working away on for the past few years.

The only question in future will be how they can work him into the bench given that he really is a blindside specialist…but can you imagine the damage he could do in the second half of a big match?

Richie Mo’unga admitted he didn’t get off to a great start. It didn’t help that he lost his second-five partner early, and he fluffed a penalty touch finder, dropped a pass and missed a tackle.

But most importantly he rode that out, settled down, found his rhythm and started finding runners in space with his passing. He’ll be a better player for the experience.

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi looked sharp on debut as well, as the All Blacks turned the burners up to full flame towards the end.

It’s worth noting that by the end of the game, there were just four players on the field who’d started the 2015 World Cup final.

This team has become its own entity, it is growing in depth, introducing some sharp new talent, and playing rugby at a velocity that probably hasn’t been seen before.

Throw all that together and it was a pretty darned special weekend.