AUCKLAND, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Beauden Barrett ended any debate as to whether he deserved the All Blacks starting flyhalf role as he scored four tries in the world champions’ 40-12 Rugby Championship victory over Australia at Eden Park on Saturday.
Barrett’s position had been the subject of public debate before the southern hemisphere competition began after a below-par Super Rugby season as Richie Mo’unga guided the Canterbury Crusaders to their ninth title.
The 27-year-old Barrett quietened that debate last week in the All Blacks’ 38-13 victory in Sydney, then silenced it once and for all on Saturday in the demolition that ensured the All Blacks retained their 15-year hold on the Bledisloe Cup with a game to spare.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had said before the Rugby Championship that Barrett had earned the right to retain the number 10 jersey, given he had proved himself at test level for six seasons, although Mo’unga would get his chance eventually.
“That’s the type of player he is,” Hansen said of Barrett’s performance. “We didn’t lose any faith in him.”
Barrett’s four tries are an All Blacks record in a match against Australia, eclipsing Frank Mitchinson (1907), Tom Lynch (1913) and Henry Taylor (1914) who all scored three.
“When you hang out on the wing that’s what can happen,” Barrett said with a grin, downplaying the fact his first try had come from running a superb angle close to the breakdown and third by spotting a gap at halfway and accelerating through it.
Barrett’s second try was scored just before halftime, from another scintillating counter-attack sparked by Ben Smith, while Joe Moody and Liam Squire crossed early in the second half to give the All Blacks a 28-7 lead.
“It was a good test and was hard work in the first half,” Barrett added. “Scoring either side of halftime certainly helped us get momentum and slowly break them down.”
Barrett almost added a fifth try, but it was ruled out by the television match official for a knock-on by Ardie Savea earlier in the movement.
“To be fair I wasn’t worried about that,” Barrett said.
“It was more about finishing the game off strongly. I was not too worried about the scoreboard and was really interested in keeping on the pressure and dominating any way we could.
“I don’t know what the score was, it was good fun.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ed Osmond