Wellington’s famous “Cake Tin” was more like a washing machine, and in those dire conditions Beauden Barrett delivered one of his finest performances for the 60 minutes he was on the park with a masterclass in wet-weather game management.
Nilling a side for the first time ever in a Super Rugby play-off is some feat. To do that whilst not deviating from your attacking philosophy when logic suggests you should play conservatively is even more impressive.
Hailed for his hands, speed and versatility, among other qualities, this will be the video tape Barrett will want All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen to pore over.
Barrett kicked 16 times and produced just five passes, but those kicks had a purpose; cute dabs behind the Sharks defence into space or nudges deep into the visitors’ half.
Prior to this trip the Sharks’ record against the New Zealand sides this year had been fairly solid and conditions in theory should have favoured their unimaginative combination of lineout drives and short-range pick-and-gos.
The aimlessness of their tactical kicking though was all the more apparent when matched up with Barrett’s control of the wind.
He notably won that battle with the conditions when threading a cross-field kick over to Jason Woodward prior to Loni Uhila going over for the opening try.
Make no mistake, Barrett and his half-back partner TJ Perenara were given an armchair ride based off the outstanding work of their pack.
Both locks, Vaea Fifita and Michael Fatialofa, have slotted in superbly to fill the gaps left by Jeremy Thrush and James Broadhurst, while Ardie Savea’s run of form shows no signs of slowing down. Loni Uhila, the most recent product of the conveyor belt at loosehead prop easily recognised by his Mr. T haircut, is already a fan favourite after just two weeks.
Perenara in this kind of form would likely start for any international side in the world with Aaron Smith in the way, and after the loss of Dane Coles, a real sickener with the All Blacks hooker heading off to hospital, Perenara had his best game of the year both in terms of his play but also his leadership too.
Barrett however is the spark. “He’s now delivering consistent high-class performances and long may it continue,” was the verdict of coach Chris Boyd when asked what more he needed to do to become the All Blacks starting fly-half.
Honestly, there is no reason for him not to be anymore. Barrett has proven he can do it all, whatever the weather.
Perenara summarised his half-back partner’s purple patch even better: “He’s got it on a string at the moment.”