The All Blacks latest backline weapon Nehe Milner-Skudder experienced the ultimate bittersweet Test rugby debut on a return to ground he once called home.
The fast and elusive winger was one of the bright spots for New Zealand coming out of their 27-19 loss to Australia on Saturday.
Milner-Skudder, who spent two seasons playing at ANZ Stadium with the Canterbury Bulldogs under-20 rugby league team, scored two tries in his first rugby Test for New Zealand on Saturday at that ground.
“Bittersweet, a couple of tries there, but I’d trade them for a win,” Milner-Skudder said.
“Just a bit gutted about the result.”
His first try was a relatively conventional winger’s finish but the second was something special.
He showed good footwork and strength in crossing despite having three Wallabies backs swarming over him.
“That was a great try,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
“We’ve still go some things that we can be happy with and certainly the debut of Nehe Milner-Skudder was very impressive.
“He was confident all week and he’s impressed us with how quickly he’s learnt and taken things on board.”
It wasn’t such a productive night for centre Sonny Bill Williams, the other former Canterbury Bulldog in the All Blacks backline, who couldn’t make any impression.
“He struggled with injury there for a while, he was pretty sore, he struggled to get into it,” Hansen said.
It was just Hansen’s third loss in 46 Tests as coach and he said the All Blacks had to face the reality they were beaten by a better side.
“We’ve lost games before and it doesn’t mean to say that all of a sudden we’ve become a bad side,” Hansen said.
“There’s some things in our game we need to tidy up.”
All Blacks captain and openside flanker Richie McCaw said the players were hurt by the loss and needed to play better in the Bledisloe Cup return game in Auckland next Saturday.
“We’ll see what our mettle is like about learning very quickly and how we actually step up,” McCaw said.
“I think it’s exciting we’ve got a chance to turn it around in seven days.”
Veteran centre Conrad Smith said it wasn’t a nice feeling sitting in the dressing room after a rare defeat and hinted the All Blacks would provide more formidable opposition in their Eden Park fortress, where Australia haven’t won since 1986.
“The good thing is we’ve got a week to put it right and I knows we’re determined to do that,” Smith said.”