Execution off, but All Blacks' character shines through

Anton Lienert-Brown (L), Kieran Read (C) Dianne Manson/Getty Images

Full marks to Australia: they picked themselves up off the deck after Bledisloe I and really took it to the All Blacks in Dunedin.

It was a true Test match. At the end of the game I turned to my wife and said: 'that is one of the best games I have seen in a long time'. There were a lot of uncharacteristic errors from the All Blacks in the first 20 minutes; loose balls and passes not hitting their target, which just fell into the Wallabies' hands. You had Damian McKenzie's long pass and Israel Folau plucking it out of the air for the runaway intercept.

Pressure creates errors and I thought Wallabies defensive coach Nathan Grey, who was well and truly under the pump last week - it must have been one of the longest weeks of his life - has been completely vindicated because Australia's defence was right in the All Blacks' face. It applied the pressure and forced them into errors.

The Wallabies controlled the game for the first 20 minutes and it was a great way for Australian rugby to bounce back. That was what needed to happen.

Michael Cheika is a colourful character and sometimes a bit gruff with the media, but you have got to take your hat off to the way he stands by his players. He's very, very loyal to his core group of players and he'll stand by them and protect them as such. That's a great quality in a coach and he's got to be admired in the way he has taken the heat and responded. It was what Australia and the rest of world rugby needed to see.

Even though they lost they can walk away knowing they achieved a lot in a week. And while no-one likes losing, they were part of a fantastic game that will go down in history as a fantastic All Blacks-Wallabies Bledisloe Cup encounter.

There have been a lot of comments about the All Blacks of 2017 compared, to say, last year. But if there is one thing that is consistent, you cannot fault the All Blacks for 'playing' rugby. They went out in Dunedin with the intention to play rugby and although that was their downfall in the first half, it's also what won them the game because they didn't stop taking those opportunities.

In those final minutes, the passes that created the match-winning try were almost split second reactions from all those involved - Kieran Read back into TJ Perenara, Perenara out to Scott Barrett, Read through the gap - before getting it to Beauden Barrett for the sealer.

There's a mindset there that they will win at all costs, or if they don't win they won't die wondering. The All Blacks took a chance, whereas more conservative teams wouldn't have thrown some of those passes. But there is an ingrained confidence among the All Blacks to back their skills. Sometimes it can compound an error and put you on the back foot, the defence starts getting in your face, causing more errors. But confidence also breeds success. I don't think the All Blacks will change anything they are doing.

In assessing where the All Blacks are at this season, you have got to remember the number of changes of personnel the side has gone through. The midfield has been a bit of a merry-go-round while McKenzie has come into the back three now; Jordie Barrett was there before. It has been Julian Savea on the left for so long, now it's Rieko Ioane. Liam Squire has come in at blindside. Nepo Laulala stepped up as tighthead prop in Owen Franks' absence, and Dane Coles was starting his first Test in a long time.

There have been a lot of changes and the more teams play together the more combinations develop. That is what really strengthens your side. I don't think Steve Hansen is going to be too worried with how the team is doing.

Character-wise, that game at the weekend was really good for the All Blacks. They came under a bit of pressure which was a testament to the way the Australians played rather than the All Blacks playing badly; New Zealand struggle in the first half but they responded well. It was more about the character coming away from that game that they'll be pleased with.

Laulala was one of the real shining lights for me at the weekend; I've been banging on about him for a long time. Starting at tighthead, he showed just how destructive he is as a scrummager. I've compared him to Olo Brown in the past due to his straight back. When Laulala holds that form, he allows all the weight behind him to channel through his spine. A lot of tightheads will come up, or deviate, or bore in or whatever; but Laulala can lock-up and stay there and keep that pressure going forward.

We saw a destructive scrum at the weekend and it was a shame the Australians scored off it even though there might have been a hand to flick that ball out; the loose forwards weren't bound either. You could have probably found three or four reasons to penalise the Australians at that scrum. But no complaints, the game panned out the way it did. The scrum was something the All Blacks could take away from that Test and be very pleased about. Losing someone like Owen Franks and then finding a real gem like Laulala is a good thing.

Cheika might have felt there were some calls that went against Australia, but the All Blacks had them too. Brodie Retallick's try was one. The referee put his finger out, pointed to it and blew his whistle for the try. You might not have seen it scored, but if you peeled the bodies back Retallick was going to be lying on the ball.

We should not take that sort of decision away from the referee. Owens knew that was a try because he awarded it straight away, to then go upstairs and have the TMO say the cameras couldn't see it is a bit of a travesty really. We need to get sharper on that. Everyone at home could see that Owens was pretty close and closer than any camera, and you actually felt it was a try. Owens bottled that slightly. He's the referee and he's still the sole judge of fact and he should have been allowed to award it.

You can gripe about things like that but that is the game of rugby and the imperfect nature of it.

It was a true Test match. There's no denying the Wallabies had the lead with two minutes left only for the All Blacks to roll the dice and win. The Wallabies had the opportunity to lock that game away but they couldn't take care of the restart. Possession is everything and even though it is the last play of the game, if you've got the ball you're the team in control.