Nigel Yalden's 2016 All Blacks Awards

And so another year of All Black rugby comes to an end.

There have been 14 tests, played over six months and across five continents.

We've seen the Steinlager Trophy, Bledisloe Cup, Freedom Cup, Rugby Championship and Dave Gallaher Trophy all remain firmly ensconced in the silverware cabinet in NZ Rugby HQ – not a bad season’s haul.

There were moments of history on both sides the ledger with the All Blacks recording the first maximum Rugby Championship season (6 wins with 6 bonus points for the full complement of 30 competition points) - countered by Ireland’s first ever win over the men in black in 111 years of trying.

So over the course of a couple of travel days, we asked our Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden to have look back, wrap it up and put a bow on it!

Overall forward performance: B+

A couple of ropey performances at lineout time (first halves in Hamilton and Chicago) but usually a well oil machine on own ball and very disruptive on the opposition throw.

I can’t recall the scrum getting pushed around outside of the Buenos Aires test when they went down a man and tried to scrummage with seven before calling in ALB at flanker, however you wouldn’t say they really dominated a side in that area.

Around the field, the All Blacks have a brilliant group of athletes who wear 1 to 8 and 16 to 20 with skill sets to match, and who were for the most part accurate and stinging in defence.

Overall back performance:  B

Not much to quibble about and yet you just know that they could have been even better.

Opportunities did go begging through rushing at times, while in the last two tests of the year, the backs were guilty of overdoing the cross kick or kick in behind the line rather than looking to move the ball in hand.

However, that is nit-picking when you consider the raft of free flowing movements and strike plays we saw the backline deliver. 

Team Performance of the Year: Saturday 21 November vs. Ireland in Dublin

Whilst the first 60 minutes in Sydney was far more fluid and delightful to watch, the effort in Dublin surpasses because of sheer grit and heart.

The All Blacks got smacked in the mouth in Chicago. They saw it coming and were too slow to move their collective heads out of the way.

What followed was a week of contemplation for the majority of the senior players during the developmental week in Rome. That in turn was followed by the most intense week of the year by far.

They were up for a scrap and by George did they get one.  As noted,, other performances were more aesthetically pleasing, but that effort at AVIVA Stadium was the sort of performance you expect from a great side when they are challenged; tough to the point of brutal.

Overall Team Performance: B

Most international teams would love to look back on a test campaign with just one blemish, though for the All Blacks that loss to Ireland will stick it in the craw and be referenced a bit before the first test against the Lions.

The fact is when they got it right, they were irrepressible, however they did seem to struggle with the travel of the latter half of the season with Australia, Ireland and France showing in four of the final five tests of the season that the gap to the chasing pack is not as great as the Rugby Championship indicated.

However the goal of 2016 was to re-establish the All Blacks and that has been achieved, as well as bringing through some wonderful young talent to bolster the stocks and when you think of things in Rugby World Cup cycles - which you have to nowadays - an excellent foundation has been laid on which to build towards 2019.

Season stats

Played 14, Won 13, Lost 1.

Points for - 562. Points against - 221.       

Tries for - 80. Tries against - 18          

Leading points scorer: Beauden Barrett - 152 (9 tries, 40 cons, 9 pens)

Leading try scorer: Israel Dagg - 10

Top tackler: Kieran Read - 141

** via NZ Herald Stats Centre **

Awards

World Rugby Team of the Year (seventh consecutive time & 10th overall)

World Rugby Players of the Year: Beauden Barrett

World Rugby Coach of the Year: Steve Hansen (fourth time in five years)

NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB

(Photos - Photosport NZ)

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