Written by Max Sharp.
Having begun the tournament with a new attack coach, new forwards coach and being at their worst winning record of the professional era, the All Blacks have at last found their groove and will perhaps have nailed down a Rugby Championship title through points differential. After a 17-0 half-time score, they bought their tricks out of the bag to smash Australia by 40-14. This is perhaps the first time since 2016 that we can say the All Blacks have genuinely improved as a team, so congratulations to the team. Let's read through the players from jersey number 1 through to 23 and see how they all performed in The Rugby Championship's final round of 2022!
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (23), pictured against Ireland, played just 11 minutes against Australia off the bench. Photo: Max Sharp.
All Blacks Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (7/10)
Completed his breakout tournament by giving his all to rucks and bullying the Wallabies in the scrum. Nailed down a few decent numbers with 6 metres off 2 carries, 2 passes and 9/10 tackles in another solid effort.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (8/10)
Plenty of supporters were grumpy not to see Taukei'aho starting but this match proved a return to form for Taylor. Throwing 7/9 lineouts, he also managed a try off a driving maul, as well as 27 metres run, 2 defenders beaten and 1 clean break from just 5 carries. 4 passes and a 100% tackle ratio with 6/6 were the icing on the cake for a brilliant game.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (8/10)
A true smashing that would have made his nation of birth feel livid, not to have him as a Wallaby instead. Ran 12 metres and beat 1 defender from 6 carries, while keeping ball alive with 2 passes and 1 offload. Lomax' 7 tackles proved brilliant on defence too.
Lock 4 - Brodie Retallick (7/10)
Equalling the record for most tests between a locking combination, Retallick ran the ball well, with 22 metres and 1 defender beaten from 7 carries. Made 4 passes off the lineout, while his defence was strong with 8 tackles and 1 turnover.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (10/10)
With Alun Wyn Jones continuing well past his prime, Whitelock will go down as the game's greatest lock. Though he ran just 9 metres from 4 carries, he beat a defender on the way to score a try. Immense defence in his 140th test too, with 10 tackles and 2 turnovers won.
Blindside Flanker - Akira Ioane (6/10)
Lacked his usual venom on attack, but defended well with 9 tackles and 2 turnovers. Could have been more involved with helping the team retain possession, but 13 metres is a fair total off just 4 carries. Definitely deserved more ball. Off for Sotutu with 11 minutes to go.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (9/10)
With Whitelock filling in for the injured Sam Cane as captain, Papali'i wore the 7 jersey and had an industrious display. He did not touch the ball in the first half but ended with 14 metres and 1 clean break from 4 carries, while making 4 passes to go with the team's top tackle count of 19/19, while he also won 1 turnover. Great 80-minute game.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (8/10)
Ran more metres than all of the Wallabies' starting backs aside from Bernard Foley, with 52 in total, while also beating 2 defenders and making 1 clean break off 9 carries. Savea was solid as a decision-maker, with 9 passes and 2 offloads and defended well with 8/8 tackles.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (6/10)
Not a lot of defending was needed off 9, but Smith did so when it was needed and made 3/3 tackles and 1 turnover. Ran more than usual, with 17 metres off 3 carries. Strong communication allowed the team to flourish.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (7/10)
Looked right at home despite Beauden Barrett returning to a starting jersey. Mo'unga ran 34 metres and beat 2 defenders off 5 carries, while retaining his hands-on game control, with 19 passes and 2 offloads. Could have been better off the tee and made just 4/6 tackles, would be wrong to rate him higher.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (7/10)
Did some much-needed work on his high-ball takes and defensive positioning at training and it showed. At his destructive best with ball-in-hand, with 63 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 8 carries, while nailing 2/2 tackles.
Second-Five - Jordie Barrett (9/10)
That's not a bad emergency option at all! Barrett did well on both attack and defence, with 9 tackles and 1 turnover with his enormous frame. A team-high 18 carries saw 82 running metres, while 7 defenders beaten doubled his tournament tally. Strong distributing too, with 9 passes and 4 offloads. Fullback's still his best position, but this strong game may worry the injured Quinn Tupaea in the long-term.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (9/10)
Simply incredible. With just 4 carries, Ioane was still able to gain 100 metres, beat 4 defenders and make 1 clean break. A lack of ball did mean he only made 3 passes, though his valuable defensive reads did amount to 7 tackles.
Right Wing - Will Jordan (9/10)
At his clinical best, to score the opening try. Jordan's 9 carries also saw him top the match chart for metres run, with 119, while he beat 4 defenders and made 2 clean breaks. Slotted in as an extra distributor for 4 passes, while completing both of his tackles.
Fullback - Beauden Barrett (7/10)
Given tactical responsibility with the boot, while stamping his authority early on with a great chip-kick, leading to a lineout for the All Blacks. Ran 25 metres, beat 2 defenders and made 1 clean break off 9 carries, though it would have been good to see more than 4 passes and 1 tackle. 15 is his best position.
Reserve Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (7/10)
Scoring a try just 5 minutes after coming on, Taukei'aho looks set to finish the competition as the top try-scorer. Nailed all but one of his lineouts, while running 6 metres off 3 carries. Tackling was 4/4, well done by the number 16 in his 23 minutes.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (6/10)
Despite his versatility, this is the first 23 minutes Tu'ungafasi has played at loosehead for Ian Foster. Had quick ruck speed and ran 3 metres off 2 carries, his single pass and tackle attempt were successful. Great to see him back from a neck injury.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (7/10)
The number 18 was also returning from a neck injury and had a pretty high tackle count for just 23 minutes, with 5/5. Laulala looked slightly fitter with his ruck speed and didn't let up at scrum time either.
Reserve Lock - Tupou Vaa'i (No rating)
Replaced Retallick with just 12 minutes left, got to touch the ball just once and made just 3 tackles, so won't be rated.
Reserve Loose Forward - Hoskins Sotutu (No rating)
Similarly to Vaa'i, Sotutu didn't see enough action to get rated, playing for just 11 minutes; this saw Savea move to blindside.
Reserve Halfback - Finlay Christie (6/10)
The 27-year-old played far more minutes than the previous week and presented some mature decision-making for his home crowd to see. Christie also made 2/2 tackles in a solid cameo.
Reserve Midfielder - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (No rating)
Did his best considering what was handed. Tuivasa-Sheck made 4/4 tackles, but did not get to touch the ball during the match. One must wonder if he is running out of time to impress at test level.
Reserve Outside Back - Sevu Reece (6/10)
Made his 11-minute cameo into a bit of an all-round performance, with 4 metres off 2 carries. Reece made 2/2 tackles and won a turnover, while managing a few decent kicks and good on him it was his single match of the tournament.