When New Zealand is the best rugby league team in the world – in other words, whenever they can beat Australia – the song usually remains the same.
Great teams can match the Kangaroos but you need great players to really crack them open. Stacey Jones was great at it in his day and so were Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson.
The styles may have differed, but the one thing each of the halfbacks had in common was an unaccountable brilliance.
Relying on somebody to produce that brilliance isn’t always a sustainable way to go but when somebody is in the kind of form Jahrome Hughes produced in New Zealand’s 48-10 win over Ireland what else can you do but ride it as far as you can and hope it’s enough, because if it’s not then whatever could be?
Overall, the performance from Michael Maguire’s side was a patchy one. We’re at the point of the World Cup where the big fish are sick of feeding on minnows and are already thinking about what they’ll do in deeper waters.
But Hughes, in his first match of the tournament, found some of the special magic. He would have flayed any team in the world with the way he played – after scoring the first try of the match he played a hand in four more before half time before crossing again in the second stanza.
It was a sophisticated performance – Hughes beat defenders for speed and footwork, put in pinpoint attacking kicks and found the right passes when it counted and a mark of how far he has come.
In the last World Cup, Hughes had his eye on representing Wales. It would have been a fun time, with some tears in the anthems, some good times with the touring squad and with a few footy games in there besides.
This time, Hughes shapes as one of the key men if New Zealand are to win the thing, something which seems eminently possible.
Throughout this win Hughes looked like one of the best halfbacks in rugby league, which is precisely what he’s been for some time now, but Hughes can still be overlooked in discussions of the top playmakers in the sport.
He doesn’t play State of Origin, which is the lens through which so many make their judgements, and even now after 25 years of excellence a Melbourne Storm man can still be out of sight and mind for some.
A man-of-the-match display against Ireland, no matter how dominant, won’t tip those scales. But Hughes can make his legend the same way Jones and Marshall and Johnson did if he can help lead the Kiwis to glory.
To do that, New Zealand will have to knock over Fiji next week – which might sound easy, but the Bati won the last meeting between the two and won’t go down easy – before their judgement day against Australia in the semi-finals.
An upset would be a surprise, as all upsets are, but it wouldn’t be a shock. Hughes isn’t the only Kiwi playmaker who can crack a game open — Brandon Smith can do it and so can Dylan Brown and so can Joseph Manu.
Add in a forward pack that’s mean as sin and hard as nails and the Kiwis have a sharp spear pointed directly at Australia’s heart, with the muscle to through it and the skill to aim truly.
Even so, they haven’t been perfect. Even after three matches the Kiwis are still yet to settle on a left centre and their best goal-kicker is part-timer Jordan Rapana.
And while they have enough tough men in the middle to invade a small country, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be missed if he’s suspended for a nasty high tackle.
Against any other team those would be little things but the margins become thin when you’re trying to take down the Kangaroos and to pull that off everything has to go right and everybody needs to be on deck.
Otherwise, you’re relying on that brilliance to save you. That’s not the safest way to live, because you’re relying on big odds to come your way.
But big odds come in sometimes and we’ve all made worse bets than trusting in players like Jahrome Hughes.