Dylan Cleaver: The Clubrooms – The signs that Ian Foster is on the right track

Clubrooms
Clubrooms

Winners and Losers
Winners and Losers

WINNERS

IAN FOSTER

The All Blacks showed more in the first 25 minutes than they did in the entire 89 in Wellington.

Whereas the draw flattered them last week, the 20-point margin undersold them yesterday. They destroyed Australia, reaffirming the talent disparity between the two sides.

Not only that, but some of the questionable things about this side seem more plausible today than they did last Monday.

It is entirely probable that Beauden Barrett is a better No 10 than fullback, that Jordie Barrett is a better fullback than wing, that Jack Goodhue is a better centre than second-five and that Ardie Savea is a better openside flanker than No 8, but at least we now have a better gauge of how the interlocking parts of the machine can work together to greater effect.

While there remained an annoying amount of nothing kicks, the attack was more varied, with greater emphasis on the lineout drive and attacking Australia’s weak areas.

Tactics aside, however, it was the greater ferocity with which the All Blacks approached their task that was the biggest difference. It was missing in Wellington, which was disturbing as it’s the very least we expect from All Blacks.

It must continue across the Tasman.

CALEB CLARKE

What a talent and what a beautifully un-choreographed exit from Eden Park. He was spent, the crowd appreciated his efforts and he appreciated the crowd’s appreciation. I appreciated his appreciation of the crowd’s appreciation. I hope you appreciate my appreciation of his appreciation of the crowd’s appreciation.

Rugby players need to do more of this: that personal connection has been lost in a blizzard of Insta set-ups and cheddary Sky promos. His simple act of gratitude was real and unaffected.

Clarke’s performance had a bit of everything: speed, strength, awesome strength, and a bit more muscular speed. It was smart, too.

If there’s a dark cloud it is my theory that emerging as a potential star the year after a World Cup is the worst time in the cycle to do it. By 2023, nobody, with the possible exception of surprise qualifiers Angola, will be surprised or unprepared for his strengths, which are manifold.

SHANE van GISBERGEN

Mount Panorama was not quite the same without the bogans on the hill pickled in bourbon-and-cola, wearing the worst jackets since the days of That’s Incredible but SvG won’t mind too much after breaking his duck on the famous circuit.

His drive, particularly coming out of the safety-car situations at the back of the race was flawless.

Scott McLaughlin steals most of the headlines these days, but Gis’s sheer talent should never be ignored.

It was fitting farewell on the famous hill for factory-team Holdens.

THE CLEARYS

Yeah, it’s OK for Warriors fans to wonder what might have been.

Life guarantees you nothing but it’s safe to say that if Cleary had just finished coaching his 15th season at his beloved Warriors instead of leaving after the 2011 Grand Final, the club would have had a better chance of breaking their premiership duck by now than where they currently stand.

They’d have a franchise halfback for life, too.

LOSERS

NZ SPORT/ SPORT NEW ZEALAND

In one of my last “Any Given Mondays” I raised the prospect of Raelene Castle succeeding Peter Miskimmin as Sport New Zealand chief executive.

My inbox quickly became a repository for angst.

At the risk of inciting more opprobrium, trusted sources have indicated Castle has interviewed for the role, is on a shortlist of two with former Sport NZ exec and synchronised swimmer Katie Sadleir, and is widely considered a lay-down misère to be offered the job.

It will be difficult for Castle to shift the narrative that it is an indictment on the quality of sports administration in New Zealand when you can effectively fail upwards into the most important job in the country.

WALLABIES AT EDEN PARK

It’s getting ridiculous now.

The last time the Wallabies won on this oddly shaped ground was when Andrew Leeds and Kieran Crowley were wearing No 15.

Dave Rennie now has a better idea of the size of the task ahead of him.

ARDIE SAVEA

Savea was immense yesterday but it cannot go unmentioned that he hungus’ed on a three-on-one that could have gone badly wrong.

Luckily the cover tackle was weak enough for him to shrug off and score, but if his greed had blown the try, it would have been almost as poor and just as preventable as Rieko Ioane’s showboating misadventure last week.

Ardie Savea celebrates after scoring against the Wallabies at Eden Park. Photo / Peter Meecham
Ardie Savea celebrates after scoring against the Wallabies at Eden Park. Photo / Peter Meecham

Letterbox
Letterbox

If you could guarantee that your favourite rugby team would win every game for a season, and claim the championship, but they would never score a try (all points from penalties and droppies), would you take the deal? Mark, Cambridge

Deep, very deep, and quite difficult to answer as I’ve really only had a “fan” association with one rugby team – Taranaki – and it’s been a while since my mood has been altered at any level depending on whether they won or lost.

But because it’s an interesting concept I’m going to try to put myself into reverse and imagine I’m 17, that the mighty amber-and-blacks are in the midst of an unbeaten season and they have yet to cross the line with ball in hand.

The honest truth is that aside from the unbeaten part, it doesn’t sound awfully dissimilar from my memories of Rugby Park, New Plymouth.

Try-scoring was never an integral part of Taranaki’s arsenal. The farmers who drove up in their utes from places like Kaponga, Toko and Kaupokonui always seemed more engaged by the sight of a mutton-fed prop hitting a ruck hard than they did by a centre getting on the outside of their man.

The sight of the ball going wider than the first-five was a common cause of anxiety and reason for said farmers to reach for the pouch of Port Royal.

So the short answer following that long ramble is yes, I’ll take the deal. In a few years time, when sepia starts to colour your memories, you’ll only remember the championship, not how the team won it.

Media Snack
Media Snack

If you haven’t seen the Bathurst 1000 hype video, which is in its second year now, you really should take five minutes out of your day to watch it. Sure, it comes with a bit of cheddar, but it’s also bloody good.

ANORAK STAND

Some 40 players have accumulated more than 300 NRL games, an extraordinary figure in such a high-attrition sport. Only one has got to 400. Cameron Smith will play his 430th game this weekend when he leads the Melbourne Storm against Penrith in the grand final. His record will not be beaten in our lifetimes, possibly ever.

The Grim Reaper
The Grim Reaper

John R Reid was a cricketer for whom the numbers will never tell the full story. Reid was a mighty oak who played a large portion of his career in a team of saplings. A teetotaller, Reid was capable of the most intoxicating innings. His happiest moments came in South Africa, where he scored two of his six test centuries and led his team to a meritorious 2-2 series result in 1961-62. Reid could bowl a bunch of everything and when he wasn’t fit enough to bowl was a more than handy wicketkeeper.

It’s been a bad year for old baseballers, with Joe Morgan being the latest to fall. The second baseman was most famous as part of Cincinatti’s all-conquering Big Red Machine in the 1970s. He was also a long-time part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball coverage, where he lived up to his reputation as the smartest, though slightly cranky, man in the sport.

Watch Me
Watch Me

The Champions League start this week. Still no crowds, which is sadly familiar now rather than weird, but the pick of the games is on Wednesday at 8am between two moneybag teams, Paris St Germain and the Manchester United invitational XI. Bayern Munich versus Atletico Madrid the following morning has some appeal too.

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