Good news Aotearoa, both our senior rugby union sides absolutely munched their opposition on Saturday with huge wins. In doing so, the All Blacks and Black Ferns showcased the sort of breath-taking rugby they are capable of, but the issue is, we already knew they could do that. So where does this leave both teams as they enter the biggest phases of their seasons?
A long time between drinks
Firstly, it was just good to actually have both sides playing. Despite being involved in a World Cup, it had been an abnormally long break between games for the All Blacks and there were fears that rust might have set in.
For the Black Ferns, it was even longer - they hadn't played since July and certainly needed a tune up before the WXV tournament starts in a couple of weeks.
Just how much of a tune up they got is debatable, though. Australian women's rugby is arguably in a worse spot than their men, which is saying a lot, but at least the Wallabies were capable of being competitive in one Bledisloe Cup test this year.
The last three tests between the Black Ferns and Wallaroos have had a combined scoreline of 134-20, and given that the NRLW is now completely soaking up the talent across the Tasman, that's unlikely to deviate much any time soon.
Meanwhile, the Italians were supposed to be a proper test for the All Blacks as they close in on a quarter final but ended up being about as threatening as a bowl of cold spaghetti.
Shannon Frizell, Jordie Barrett, Tyrel Lomax and Sam Cane slotted back into the All Blacks nicely and their re-entries were greatly helped by the Italians' relaxed attitude towards tackling, scrummaging, lineouts and generally playing rugby. Barrett in particular looked like he'd picked up where he left off in regard to form and impact on a game, but the win started up front, where Lomax anchored the scrum.
For the Black Ferns, it was a slightly longer lay off for Charmaine Smith, who returned from an injury-enforced early retirement to take her place in the second row.
Great news for the All Blacks is that, unlike the flogging dished out to Namibia, they managed to get through their test without any yellow or red cards. In fact, the entire game was almost devoid of any foul play, which can partly be put down to the lack of intensity once the Italians realised they were going to spend about half the game watching Richie Mo'unga line up conversions. Given that the All Blacks will presumably be rotated against Uruguay and therefore the potential of some catastrophic judicial situation is dramatically reduced, Ian Foster can feel pretty good about naming a team for the quarterfinals.
Lack of discipline
However, things seemed to be a bit different in Hamilton, where high shots didn't seem to be illegal. There were so many poor tackle attempts (mainly by the Wallaroos) that weren't picked up it wasn't funny, including a shocker on Lucy Jenkins as she scored the Black Ferns' sixth try. At least the reffing crew made a consistent call on Wallaroos prop Bridie O'Gorman trying to tackle Charmaine Smith with a flying head butt when she was shown a red, but even then, there was no HIA check on either player. Given just how officious things have been at the men's World Cup, the question really has to be asked as to why the women seem to be getting reffed under a set of rules from 30 years ago.
Well done to Hamilton, almost 11,000 showed up to watch the Black Ferns game and a fair percentage were children and families. It's heartening to see that the interest in the women's side has sustained despite a very long time between home fixtures, and hopefully can carry over for the upcoming WXV series. A World Cup final rematch with England is down for 4 November in Auckland, hopefully by then the sun is out and the very long rugby season can finish with a bang in front of a big crowd.
Frizell, Lomax, Jordie Barrett and Cane were always going to move straight back into Foster's top side, but all the hype around Samuel Whitelock becoming the most capped All Black of all time did somewhat distract from the conversation about his place in the team going forward. He looks set to finish his long career in a bench role, given how well Scott Barrett is playing and Frizell's now-assured place on the side of the scrum.