Perfect send-off for Smith on his home track
Playing their last All Blacks Tests at home was all the more enjoyable for halfback Aaron Smith and hooker Dane Coles, by how the side fought back to beat Australia 23-20 in Dunedin on Saturday.
Smith said his last run on his home ground at Forsyth Barr Stadium was special but tough.
For the first 60 minutes, it had been 'a good old Bledisloe.'
"It was very tough and Australian were pretty awesome for a lot of that game. I had a different role in the team this week which was to finish the game and I just wanted to get on there and do my job, and to end up on top was brilliant. To dig ourselves out of a bit of a hole was cool…to go two tries down early and stay in it and have a good reset at halftime was probably the saving of the game."
He said implementing those requirements was about getting their messages and game in check. Having to come from such a margin behind was not what was wanted, but it was nice to know they could achieve such a recovery.
They had taken another step forward in their season's development. It took 78 minutes to do it, but there were many lessons while introducing three players to Test rugby.
"It was pretty ugly at times, but sometimes they are the ones you remember more when you do enough to win.
"It was good to get another chance to wear the black jersey and the meaning of playing at this stadium, a place where I have played a lot and running on and hearing the people cheer was pretty special and something that will stick with me forever."
Going on at a time when the game was in the balance, he wanted to keep a clear head, not overplay or try too hard.
"I wanted to come on and bring a bit of energy, accuracy and calm. I was trying to shift the momentum back in our favour. The forwards helped that by being able to go to our set piece and build pressure through that and do enough to win.
"That was the key, we weren't going to be able to blow them away, we had to find a way to win. It's a game I'll never forget and sometimes winning like that is a lot more special than a different kind of win."
Hooker Dane Coles said it was good to get the job done.
Even after Richie Mo'unga landed a penalty goal to claim the lead with two minutes to go, the All Blacks still had to be careful from the restart because it was always a dangerous period, and they concentrated on trying to retain the ball.
"It was pretty fitting. There were a couple of deep breaths after the fulltime whistle and to take it all in but it was pretty cool to finish off in New Zealand [like that]."
Coles said he had reflected on his career on the bus to the ground, especially seeing all the fans, family, and friends, but it was about getting his mind on the job and finishing well.
The win gave the side some confidence, especially the new players, because they knew it took only one bad performance to go backwards.
"It puts us in the right light and positive steps, but we've got to keep our feet firmly on the ground because we haven't achieved anything yet.
"We've taken care of business in New Zealand but the World Cup is completely different."
Coles said Australia had played well with a point to prove after their losses, and for the All Blacks, it was a case of learning from the experience while making sure it doesn't happen again.