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2015 All Blacks retirements - Ma'a Nonu - seven memorable moments

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allblacks.com     27 Dec 2015     Getty Images

That Ma'a Nonu finished his international career with two World Cup winners' medals is perhaps the greatest reward for the contribution he made to the All Blacks game, especially during the latter days at Test level.

Certainly there was Test centurion status to savour, and there was contentment being back with the Hurricanes and reaching the Investec Super Rugby final in 2015, but ultimately there was the consistency fit to rank him among the best of the many notable second five-eighths to have represented the country.

Nonu had a fitful start to his career. Having made his debut in New Zealand's 13-15 loss to England at Wellington ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2003, he played three games at that World Cup.

A year later he made four appearances, three of them as substitutes, on the northern tour.

He played the second Test against the touring British and Irish Lions in Wellington, again as a substitute before playing in three of the end of year games in the 2005 Grand Slam. There were five Tests in 2006 but only two in 2007, and he failed to make the World Cup side that year.

But 2008 represented the second phase of his career as he appeared in 15 Tests and he was rarely out of the action for the remainder of his career. By the time he had finished he had posted 104 Tests with 31 tries.

The arrival of Sonny Bill Williams created new pressures for Nonu. It would have to be acknowledged that he met that challenge head on, just as he would on the field, and it may even be seen that Williams' presence lifted Nonu to the greatest heights of his career.


We list seven of the memorable moments Nonu contributed to the New Zealand game:

June 20, 2009 v France, Wellington



New Zealand had lost the first Test of the two-Test series a week earlier when going down 22-27 in Dunedin and Nonu had been one of the two try scorers. But as New Zealand turned out in Wellington, in abysmal conditions, they needed to beat France by five or more points in order to retain the Gallaher Cup. Nonu scored in the 26th minute, a superb try under the conditions, after hooker Keven Mealamu set up a ruck in front of the French posts. The ball emerged for flanker Tanerau Latimer, to feed wing Joe Rokocoko into space on the wide open blindside and when the French defence nabbed him, Nonu was across in support to take the pass and score wide out.



August 22, 2009 v Australia, Sydney


Having replaced an injured centre Conrad Smith early in the game, and with the Australians pushing New Zealand hard to claim a 12-3 lead at half-time, New Zealand had seen possible tries to both first five-eighths Dan Carter and halfback Jimmy Cowan ruled out. But breaking toward the blindside from a ruck, Nonu linked with No.8 Kieran Read. Read transferred to wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, who cut infield by going beneath two would-be Australian tacklers, and then flinging a pass outside where Nonu had doubled around to take the ball and score the only try of a game which New Zealand would eventually win 19-18.



August 21, 2010, v South Africa, Johannesburg (Soccer City)



Johannesburg has been the venue for some stunning clashes between the All Blacks and South Africa throughout their history, but in more recent times they have been especially notable. The 2010 game required the All Blacks to come back from 14-22 down with 15 minutes left. Firstly, flanker Richie McCaw scored after wing Cory Jane and Nonu combined to create a chance. With the scores levelled as the result of Dan Carter's conversion, Nonu got the ball 10m inside the All Blacks half but running at speed he broke the Springboks defence by breaking through the tackle attempts of two forwards, including home skipper John Smit, and powering up (with just one boot!) to just short of the 22m line where he flung the perfect long pass to left wing Israel Dagg who scored.



August 6, 2011, v Australia, Auckland



Everyone was thinking about the World Cup due to start at Eden Park a month later, but there was the small matter of the Bledisloe Cup to be sorted out first. Australia, as ever, arrived looking to land a psychological blow ahead of the world event, but New Zealand had other ideas and Nonu graphically demonstrated that when scoring the opening try. It came after a blindside break along the northern touch by halfback Piri Weepu. The ball was moved back across field and after Sitiveni Sivivatu, playing on the right wing, was held up just short of the line, flanker Jerome Kaino tried to get the ball across the line. However, he was tackled too. But out of the middle of the breakdown Nonu burrowed his way through bodies, picked up the ball and plonked it over the line for the opening try in New Zealand's 30-14 win.



October 16, 2011, v Australia, Auckland (World Cup semi-final)



All New Zealand was humming by this stage of the World Cup and everyone knew what a threat the Aussies posed. There was a great desire not to miss out to them again in a semi-final as had happened in 1991 and in 2003. It was a tight game and only one try was scored by guess who? It came after a superb break by fullback Israel Dagg who ducked and weaved his way towards the right hand corner. But a desperate tackle knocked him towards the touchline. Somehow, in mid-air, he managed to get a pass away inside and Nonu was on hand to take it and score what proved to be a vital try in New Zealand's 20-6 win to qualify for the final.



August 15, 2015, v Australia, Auckland



Something about the Australians, and on Eden Park especially, stirs the Nonu blood. Again, ahead of a World Cup, and this time a week after a Bledisloe Cup loss in Australia, the All Blacks needed to step up big time to hang onto the Cup. Already having scored through a superb try to hooker Dane Coles and a penalty try, the All Blacks made the most of a poorly-placed Australian cross-kick. It was taken by wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, who kicked downfield. In the chase for the ball Dan Carter couldn't control the ball and a ruck was set up. The ball was let loose among the tight forwards where prop Owen Franks and lock Samuel Whitelock slipped the ball on to Coles whose flick on allowed fullback Ben Smith to create an opening which Nonu raced through to score the try that took the game well and truly beyond Australia.



November 1, 2015, v Australia, Twickenham (World Cup final)

Ironically, given the rivalry between the two, it was Sonny Bill Williams who provided the opportunity for what may well be regarded as the greatest try Nonu scored during this Test career. It came just after half-time in the World Cup final. New Zealand were ahead, but they couldn't afford to take it easy, as subsequent events showed as Australia got right back into the game. However, the eventual buffer New Zealand enjoyed came after Williams, who had replaced Conrad Smith at centre, somehow, slipped a miraculous ball back in a tackle to Nonu. He stepped through the first line of Australian defenders and then set sail, on a tangent for the goal-line. Hearts were in mouths as New Zealand fans remembered the way he had missed the chance for a runaway try, in the last strides, against France. But determination took over and Nonu was able to score to give New Zealand valuable momentum just after the halftime break. It was to prove vital in the final analysis.