Lazarus rises! All hail Ioane

Sun, 26 Nov 2017 05:56

REACTION: All Black wing sensation Rieko Ioane was hailed as a phenomenon by coach Steve Hansen after a man-of-the-match two-try performance in a thrilling 33-18 victory over Wales on Saturday.

The 20-year-old giant was dubbed 'Lazarus' by teammates in the week after his amazing recovery from a shoulder injury that had apparently threatened months out.

Ioane's double, allied with a brace for fellow wing Waisake Naholo was the bedrock for New Zealand's win, condemning Wales to a 30th straight defeat, their last win coming back in 1953.

"Both of them are pretty special," Hansen said of his wing pair.

"One of them [Ioane] is 20 and thank goodness his shoulder came on, that's all I can say!

"He's phenomenal. If we can keep his feet on the floor he could go anywhere, that kid.

"And Waisa [Naholo] just got better and better with the confidence of playing and is pretty special too.

"Both of them tonight have been big contributors to the team right around the park. They score tries and we all see that but there's other stuff they do as well, which is good."

Pressed on Ioane, Hansen added: "He's got something that most older people don't have and that's pace. Every time he gets the ball you think 'Wow what's going to happen?'.

"He only needs half a yard because he's so quick, he's strong with it, he's a big man."

Hansen's counterpart Warren Gatland also praised Ioane and Naholo, admitting that his pairing of Hallam Amos and Steff Evans had had a very tough day at the office.

"I said in the week that the big challenge for us, to give us a good chance of winning, was to be able to contain their wingers, the size and pace of their wingers," Gatland said.

"Unfortunately that's the difference between the two sides -- they scored four tries between them."

Gatland, joking that Ioane's grandmother was Welsh, added: "He's not bad, is he?! There're not many weaknesses in his game, he's quick and powerful with a lot of great footwork and he scores tries.

"Isn't the age of wings in New Zealand finishing 27? He's got another seven years at the top!

"He's pretty special and any team in the world would love to have a player of that quality."

Turning to the game, Hansen said it had been "a great game of footy", bringing to an end the 2017 season and an unbeaten five-match November tour.

"It reflected some of the stuff we did earlier in the year and we needed it because Wales played particularly well," he said.

"We defended really well in that first half, but we couldn't get our hands on the ball.

"In the second half, we started to get our share of the momentum and when we got that we started to take the opportunities that were presented and we didn't miss too many."

Gatland also tilted his cap to an entertaining match, but rued his side's missed chances.

"It was a great Test match, but at half-time we thought we'd given them some soft points," said the Kiwi, coach of Wales since 2008.

"At half-time we felt very much in the game and pretty comfortable and said to go out there and be accurate, but unfortunately there were key moments when we weren't."

Skipper Alun Wyn Jones said Wales lacked a "killer instinct across the line on three occasions".

"We left them off the hook. We felt we were containing them in the second-half and we've got to be happy with the heart we've shown and playing until the end. They're a team that will always take their opportunities."

Agence France-Presse