'He's a freak' - All Blacks left in awe of Ardie Savea's try

In one movement in the second half of the All Blacks' crushing victory over Ireland in the first Test at Eden Park, Ardie Savea displayed what can happen when this side combines intelligent pre-match analysis with a skillset that is perhaps beyond most Northern Hemisphere forwards.

We’re talking of course about Savea’s second try, an individual effort in which he ran an outside line to beat Ireland centre Garry Ringrose and then cut back to beat at least two more would-be defenders. The audacity would be beyond most loosies, never mind the ability.

All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett, who had a good view of the try in support of his No.8, said afterwards: “I’d love to have that sort of talent. He’s a freak.”

Barrett was being charmingly modest about his own talents, but he's probably right about his Hurricanes teammate. Savea is a special player and has been for years - his attacking instincts, pace and utter commitment getting the All Blacks out of all sorts of tight situations.

Barrett added: “I’m not sure that No.8 on his jersey represents the way he plays – I’m just stoked to see Ardie play so well. He deserves all the accolades he gets. He was immense tonight.”

READ MORE: Ian Foster 'delighted' as All Blacks dig deep to repel Ireland

There will be satisfaction too from the coaches that the piece of inspiration which lit up the home support was the result of a strategy to beat the notoriously suffocating Irish defence.

Rather than pass one or two-out from the breakdown, All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith regularly hit the third man in the line, and it paid dividends as the home side broke the advantage line to gain a momentum they couldn’t manage during their defeat to Ireland in Dublin last November.

Savea himself was a little more prosaic in his recollection of his second try of the evening. “We trained that all week and it just paid off: get the ball, pin your ears back and try and run to the tryline,” he said. “I scored it and Rieks told me to pass him the ball next time.”

All Blacks No.8 Ardie Savea runs in for his brilliant individual try against Ireland at Eden Park.

Barrett, who started the scoring for the All Blacks when running a fine line on to an Aaron Smith pass close to the try-line, finished the Test in the midfield, but there is little danger of him shifting for next Saturday’s Test in Dunedin.

He has become an integral part of the All Blacks backline in the No.15 jersey and spoke with insight and authority about how his side defended their Eden Park unbeaten streak which stretches back to 1994.

“I’m proud of the way we got into the game and believed in what we were trying to achieve – particularly through that first, well, half the match,” he said.

“We made some inroads… relatively pleased, that second half was a bit scrappy, the game can get that way when you get ahead and the other team is chasing the game a bit more and you’re in between two game plans. There’s plenty to build on.

“A lot of times in Test matches you just have to minimise the damage and they had a lot of momentum in that first 20 [minutes] of the half. To concede only five points was quite good. We knew if we got into the game and held on to the ball we could punish them if we got into their 22 and we did that.

READ MORE: Revenge is sweet as powerful All Blacks blow Ireland away

“It’s just a start. It’s only one Test against Ireland in a three-Test series. We’re kidding ourselves if we think there isn’t going to be a response next week. They’re No.2 or No.3 in the world for a reason. They have a lot of quality players and aren’t just coming here for a holiday.”

The All Blacks, fresh from their Covid disruption during the week, will feel extremely satisfied at the outcome in particular and will feel they can trouble the Irish with a higher tempo under the Dunedin roof.

Ireland, meanwhile, are hoping first-five and skipper Jonny Sexton is available after leaving the field with a head injury on Saturday night. It may not take much more for their heads to drop.

Asked about Sexton’s absence, Barrett said: “It certainly doesn’t help. He’s a world class No.10 and it has to cause disruption. I thought Joey Carbery did a great job once he found his feet in the second half… losing key guys, especially one like Jonny Sexton, it doesn’t help.”

Savea, meanwhile, is expecting an Irish backlash. “100%,” he said. “Like any team, if you get smacked like that you’re going to come back with some fire in your gut… we have to build that fire as well. It’s going to be interesting under the roof. It will be exciting.”