Faced with the prospect of last year’s premier, the All Blacks needed to take another step forward after last week’s victory against Moyhu.
But it was early disposal errors and a lack of composure that ultimately hurt the All Blacks in their 19-point loss to Tarrawingee on Saturday.
Benalla All Blacks coach Harry Moran conceded his team was off the mark for three quarters of the match.
“It was a combination of things; our lack of discipline caused some 50m penalties,” Moran said.
“And it was just the basics that we couldn’t execute and that was letting us down.
“We need to raise our skill level by five to six per cent, but the boys are aware of that.”
In a bittersweet note, the All Blacks won the final quarter, with Moran believing the small win would go a long way in the long run.
Benalla’s Harry Ellis was best-on-ground for the second week in a row, with Moran calling the 23-year-old the team’s shining light so far this season.
“I’ll happily acknowledge this is his best season,” Moran said.
“I’ve seen the hard work he’s put into his game and body.
“It’s been extremely pleasing to watch him grow from a kid into a man, I’m really proud of him.”
And what makes Ellis’ form so inspiring is the fact he was undecided on whether to continue with football three years ago after a knee reconstruction.
With the Interleague bye this weekend, Nick Spencer and Sam Newton have been picked in the initial squad to be chosen this week.
But following the bye, it will be back to business for the All Blacks when they come face-to-face with local rival Goorambat for the White Ribbon Cup, which represents zero tolerance for violence against women.
The fortnight off will have Moran and his troops work heavily on their fitness ahead of the next stretch of games.
“The boys won’t read this beforehand, but they’ll be getting a bit of a flogging tonight at (Tuesday) training,” Moran said.
“We’ll get our fitness up, spend more time on the track and hopefully train the house down this week.
“And we’ll work on things to execute. If we look after those two things, then the results will look after themselves.”
Final score: Tarrawingee 12.9 (81) def All Blacks 9.8 (62)
Goal-kickers: S. Newton 2, C. O’Connor 2, J. Ellis, L. Morrison, J. Hyland, J. Bate, A. Jacka
Best players: H. Ellis, L. Morrison, R. Sheehan, J. Hyland, B. Fulton, J. Bate