Jordie Barrett produced a composed performance at fullback for the All Blacks against the British & Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The 20-year-old came off the All Blacks bench against Samoa three weeks ago to make his Test debut, but played no part in the first two Tests against the Lions.
Barrett was then selected to start at fullback in Saturday's decider, which many, including former All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens, considered a big risk.
However, Barrett more than justified his selection. He was great in the air and threatening with ball in hand.
He got involved early in the game when he took his brother Beauden's pass and shifted the ball to Julian Savea, who knocked on.
Ten minutes later, and Barrett had a hand – or hands – in the All Blacks' first try. With the referee playing advantage for a Lions penalty, Barrett, standing inside the right-hand touchline, indicated to Beauden that the cross-kick was on. His brother obliged and while it was a bit overcooked, Barrett's height – 1.87m – allowed him to leap in the air and tap the ball inside to Ngani Laumape, who went over to score.
Barrett made his first mistake of the match in the 29th minute when he was penalised for holding on. It cost his side three points as Owen Farrell kicked the penalty goal.
But he more than made amends five minutes before the break. The All Blacks again took a lineout quickly, with Brodie Retallick taking the ball up. The All Blacks then went wide to Laumape, who drew two defenders before offloading brilliantly to Anton Lienert-Brown. The outside centre's pass found Barrett, who raced away to score his first Test try and make it 12-6.
Barrett almost helped his side score again early in the second half. The All Blacks had kicked a penalty to touch, won the lineout and then attacked wide towards the left-hand touchline. Lions fullback Liam Williams made the correct decision to rush Barrett, which put pressure on the fullback and saw his pass to an unmarked Savea go forward.
Barrett had impressed in the air for the All Blacks, and he claimed a crucial high ball from Conor Murray in the 64th minute when the scores were locked at 12-12. The fullback leapt up to take the ball and took some forward momentum into the tackle. The ball then came back to Beauden, whose kick relieved the pressure on the All Blacks and got them into Lions territory.
With eight minutes to go, Aaron Cruden's introduction at flyhalf saw Beauden move to fullback, with Jordie shifting to the right wing and Israel Dagg to the left.
Barrett went on to play the full 80 minutes, and was involved in the dramatic final attack after the hooter that saw the All Blacks get to within 4m of the Lions tryline.
But the ball went into touch, which meant both sides had to settle for a drawn Test and series.
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