Kiwi flyhalf Richie Mo’unga exorcised the ghosts of the 2019 World Cup semi-final loss by England with a commanding performance in the thrashing of Argentina on Friday.
The 29-year-old All Blacks playmaker took the one-sided 44-6 victory by the scruff of the neck, even taking all the kicks at goal – a burden he had shared with Jordie Barrett in the thrilling 28-24 win over the Irish last Saturday.
That was the one side of his game that left something to be desired against the Pumas as he missed four conversions of the seven tries ran in.
That, fortunately for the All Blacks, mattered little and the rest of the performance of the son of a Tongan father and a Samoan mother was a joy to watch.
Slick passing skills and his ability in finding space for his teammates shone through, but so did his defence – the latter symbolic of the resilience he has shown in fighting to nail down his spot in the starting lineup.
Mo’unga has had to battle to make the flyhalf role his own with Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie filling the role at times through his Test career.
However, head coach Ian Foster has kept faith in him and he has repaid it in droves at the tournament, notably in the knock-out matches against Ireland and then the Pumas.
In the first half he was pivotal in two of their tries, his long pass finding Will Jordan for the first of the winger’s three tries.
Then on the stroke of half time, rather than being selfish and go for glory himself he passed quicksilver to Shannon Frizell, who went over to all but seal the match.
He was also not afraid to show the physically imposing Pumas he was far from intimidated giving a towering Argentine forward a push at the side of a maul.
The forward glowered at him, Mo’unga shrugged his shoulders and ran back into the backline.
Early in the second-half he showed his running skills, which he had also done to great effect against the Irish, as he sold a dummy and with a jink of his hips charged into the Pumas’ 22. That eventually led to Frizell going over for his second try.
The confidence in Mo’unga was reflected as it was Beauden Barrett who was hooked on 55 minutes and replaced by McKenzie at fullback.
The only thing he was denied was a try, though he went desperately close right at the end, just being tackled short of the line after a sniping run.
Unlike four years ago he gets another chance to score one, this time in the sport’s showpiece match, the final against the winners of England versus South Africa, back at the Stade de France next Saturday.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Franck Fife/AFP