Dan Carter was labelled the ‘Perfect 10’ after his clinic against the 2005 British and Irish Lions. 2017 could be Beauden Barrett’s vintage.
Following an outstanding showing against the Blues in Auckland, Barrett sent out yet another warning to the British Isles of his quality.
Numbers wise these were statistics in another league for a fly-half but as will be discussed, there are reasons why he’s been flourishing over the past few seasons, but more notably this time too. Even if the Lions do their homework, containing Barrett throughout this series will be tough.
On Saturday he made 204 metres with ball in hand, which came via 16 runs as his four clean breaks and nine defenders beaten had the Blues struggling for answers. Barrett was a joy to watch as he brushed aside would-be tacklers, kicked well from hand, scored and set up a try.
Pace has always been a big part of Barrett’s game and it was again evident at Eden Park as his try came from turnover ball, burning Rieko Ioane, who is no slouch, en route to the line from his own half. His slalom run earlier in the game also led to Ngani Laumape’s crossing.
At 25, Barrett’s still maturing as a playmaker and with New Zealand having locked him in until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup – the delay in signing last year partly down to him being largely used as a bench option at Test level – he is set for years of tormenting opposition. Looking back it seems almost unthinkable for the All Blacks that they could have lost this special talent to the lure of an overseas club.
The Hurricanes is the ideal place for him and head coach Chris Boyd does so much to improve him as a player. The model of fly-halves being able to play at full-back is not uncommon and with Barrett’s speed, he is often retrieving kicks which means rivals must be faultless with their clearances. This also results in him constantly having an impact on proceedings which the Blues found to their detriment in Auckland.
Free of the pressure of goal-kicking this season – we mentioned before the 2017 campaign that it would be interesting to see how long the Hurricanes would wait before giving the tee to Jordie Barrett – Beauden has flourished and again that’s a credit to both player and coach. One sticking point there though is a lack of practice before the Lions games, with the All Blacks low on back-up options during last year.
Concerns such as that however are for another day, as could a Test link-up with brother Jordie, with his arrival at the Hurricanes clearly benefiting Beauden. Again a versatile talent both can interchange positions which takes more heat off the All Black to be the sole creator.
The spine of this ‘Canes side, especially the 9, 10, 12, has been excellent in 2017 and it’s no fluke that Boyd’s reluctance to substitute that trio has paid off. Rarely do they not play full matches as the pre-planned changes witnessed so often in the game are not bought into.
That clearly benefits TJ Perenara, Barrett and Laumape and New Zealand’s selectors must surely be considering the latter as a new face in the squad this year. Doubts there are none though over Barrett whose latest showing, which late on was against Warren Gatland’s son, Bryn, would have had the Lions coach concerned.
For everyone else it was a joy to watch as Barrett took his blossoming game to yet another level.