Nisbo reckons Justin Marshall knocked him off his commentator’s seat in Dublin and went close to repeating the feat in the World Cup final two years later.
Both came as Marshall, the effervescent former All Blacks captain who has been the second voice after Grant Nisbett at Sky Sport for more than a decade, thrilled to a dramatic finish.
“He was a bit excited,” Nisbett recalls, explaining that at Twickenham in 2015 Marshall had spotted Beauden Barrett racing up and into space from a Ben Smith kick.
“Go Beauden,” Marshall yelled into the microphone, and go Barrett went, collecting the ball and racing away to score a try that sealed the win against Australia and a third World Cup for New Zealand.
Marshall gave Nisbett a hefty shoulder bump then. But two years earlier he pushed the veteran caller off his seat as he celebrated the last-gasp win against Ireland in Dublin.
The All Blacks were under the pump that day, their first loss to Ireland just moments away as they trailed 22-17, Ireland in possession. Then, with 28 seconds left on the clock, Nigel Owens penalised Ireland.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw had a false start, but after the penalty was correctly taken, the All Blacks held the ball through 11 rucks before Ryan Crotty scored near the corner off a Dane Coles pass almost two minutes after the penalty. It was a testament to the All Blacks incredible composure but also, again, the impact from the bench.
The Franks brothers, Owen and Ben, had come on in the 56th and 60th minutes and made huge contributions at several of those final 11 rucks.
Liam Messam was another 56th minute sub and he made a strong run down the right flank as did another replacement, Barrett. Coles and Crotty had also come from the bench, Coles in the 42nd minute and Crotty with 28 minutes to play.
Before substitutions there was a time when the All Blacks superior fitness (and how it allowed them to retain their skills late the match) saw them outpace most teams in the final quarter. It took a while to master the use of the bench but for most of the last 15 years the All Blacks have had a huge impact off the bench in the final quarter, often, as it was in Dublin and London, leading to wins.
They’ve struggled to finish strong this year but with the bench Ian Foster’s named for the second test against Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday, the All Blacks should be able to change the tempo of the test late in the match.
Barrett and Coles are both vastly experienced off the bench, Barrett having come from there 37 times in his 107 tests, and Coles in 26 of his 82.
It is less familiar territory for Brodie Retallick who has started 80 of his 95 tests, but his bruising play and cool head will be invaluable late in the match.
Because staying level headed, while increasing the temp and ferocity, is a skill that often comes with experience. It’s what the All Blacks oozed in the last five or six years of the golden era that led up to the retirements of McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith after that 2015 final.
It is what the All Blacks desperately need now as they look to break down tiring defences in that key final quarter.
Some players aren’t suited to a bench role. I’d argue Sam Whitelock is a starter, just as McCaw was. So too Richie Mo’unga, while Barrett can be outstanding from the pine.
The ultimate super sub would have to be Stephen Donald who was not only called into the All Blacks after first Carter, and then, in the quarters, Colin Slade was injured, but he then came on in the 2011 World Cup final.
He hadn’t played for the All Blacks since coming on with two minutes to play against Wales the previous November. And, as we all now know, he’d been whitebaiting on the Waikato River when he got the call to join the All Blacks in Auckland. His great mate Richard Kahui picked him up, and they ran out of petrol on the drive to Auckland, adding to the crazy drama of it all.
Donald watched the semifinal against Australia from the bench, then came on for an injured Aaron Cruden in the 33rd minute in the final. His jersey didn’t fit properly but his penalty kick did - and it not only won the test, and the World Cup, but shifted Donald from a widely despised All Black (he was unfairly blamed for the loss to Australia in Hong Kong in 2009) to a hugely popular cult hero. Heck, they even made a movie about him and that kick.
Under pressure, under huge scrutiny, and facing all sorts of unwanted records should they lose again to Argentina, the All Blacks need another hero on Saturday.
They may find him on the bench.