‘Relief, just relief’ as ABs hold on

Scott Robertson is not sure he will be thumping the wall of the Eden Park coaching box this weekend, but he is certain of one thing.

The All Blacks will be better in the second test.

They might need to be, too, as they were underwhelming at times in their 16-15 win over England in the series opener in Dunedin on Saturday night, although they scored two nice tries and showed a reasonable bit of steel to clinch victory in Robertson’s first test as coach.

Whether it was the All Blacks muffing a couple of solid opportunities, or Damian McKenzie taking a fraction too long to kick a penalty, or some moderately head-scratching decisions from the referee, Robertson did not hide his emotions as he paced behind his seated assistants.

“I’d like to say I was calm and composed," he said with a grin.

"I don’t know if you saw me whack the wall behind me a couple of times. On reflection, I probably could’ve breathed through a couple of those.

"You get a little bit emotional at times, but as long as the messages are clear going down. It’s a good way to let a bit of steam off."

It was no classic test, but Robertson was not too bothered about that when asked how he was feeling immediately after the game.

Scott "Razor" Robertson gives a rueful smile after his All Blacks scraped home for a 16-15 win...
Scott "Razor" Robertson gives a rueful smile after his All Blacks scraped home for a 16-15 win against England on Saturday night. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
“Relief, just relief. That’s the honest call.

"I think test footy ... the reality of test footy and how close the margins are, and how important the little things are in the game.

"I’m really proud of the group, how they thought on their feet and made some really good decisions and found a way to win that.

"We’ll be better for it. A lot of players got time under their belt — a few boys hadn’t played for a while."

After such a long time with the Crusaders, and having no significant international experience, there has been much attention on how Robertson’s methods will translate to the All Blacks.

It is too early to make serious judgements, obviously, but the coach had noticed one thing about test rugby.

"It can swing pretty quickly.

"I thought we created opportunities in the first half but didn’t convert and put scoreboard pressure on. England started the second half well and bang, the game changes.

Robertson praised his leaders, including veteran Beauden Barrett — "great cameo" off the bench — and Ardie Savea, for their coolness under pressure.

He was a touch quieter, however, when pressed on the rulings of Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli.

The All Blacks seemed to cop a couple of questionable calls when they were dominating the scrum, and the offside line and England’s tendency to slow things down with some gamesmanship were also under scrutiny.

"All those things around the officiating, we will do privately," Robertson said.

"We’ve got some questions. We’d like to have a look at timing and speed and ball in play, and just the officiating on the scrums, and how we can be better and get better outcomes."

Only halfback TJ Perenara is a serious injury concern for the All Blacks.

The feisty veteran appeared to injure a knee after being landed on by a couple of players at a ruck, and was to have a scan yesterday.

Robertson confirmed he would whistle in a third halfback should Perenara, just back on deck after a long spell out with an Achilles injury, get bad news. That may indicate a recall coming for Highlanders sparkplug Folau Fakatava.

Blindside flanker Samipeni Finau had a head knock but passed HIA protocols.

Now to Eden Park, where the All Blacks have not been beaten in 30 years.

Robertson hinted there were no mass changes planned to his team. It seems likely the chance to spread game time among the squad will come a week later against Fiji in San Diego.

England are set to be without veteran prop Joe Marler, who left the field on Saturday with a foot injury.

The English were predictably tough to break down, but will need to fire more shots if they are to break a long drought.

"We came here to win and achieve something no English team has done for 21 years," England captain Jamie George said.

“We really put our hand up at times and had control of the game for long periods, but the second half turned into an arm wrestle and it was always going to be a one-score game.

"We’ll be better for it next week.”