What to make of the All Blacks' topsy-turvy 2020?

Reflecting on their mixed season during two weeks of mandatory hotel isolation after returning home from Australia, lingering frustration will bubble within the All Blacks.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster admitted as much when he said there would be a "few niggly hurt moments" to stew on over the summer.

A 50 percent win record - three victories, two losses, one draw - landed well short of expectations for the start of Foster's new era, despite securing the Bledisloe Cup and, likely, the Tri Nations crowns.

Finishing their Test year with a 38-0 shutout in Newcastle, the first time the All Blacks have held Pumas scoreless, released the pulsing pressure on Foster but it also confirmed standards expected throughout their challenging campaign.

It must be acknowledged this was a Test year like no other. Postponements and cancellations brought constant disruption, with scheduling changes extending the season and taking a mental toll on all involved.

The All Blacks went from preparing to host the Rugby Championship in New Zealand to contesting the Tri Nations in Australia - after an ugly scheduling stoush over quarantining through Christmas was eventually resolved. The South African Rugby Union then pulled the Springboks from the tournament at the 11th hour due to insufficient preparation.

Shifting the hosting rights to Australia required a major mental shift for the All Blacks - spending the best part of seven weeks away from family and friends is no easy task, particularly for the many first-time fathers among the squad.

From a pure performance perspective, however, the All Blacks must address why they were so wildly inconsistent.

A magic night in Sydney, their record 38-point win over the Wallabies, which locked away the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year is the unquestioned high point of the season. The six-tries-to-one statement featured a 23-point masterclass from Richie Mo'unga, while confirming the gulf in depth between New Zealand and Australia.

Complacency then set in.

Mass changes to the starting team for the defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane stunted rhythm, with many fringe prospects failing to grab chances, and ill-discipline became a major issue; Ofa Tu'ungafasi copping a red card and Scott Barrett's yellow card in the final 10 minutes proving a coach killer moment. The All Blacks were also guilty of being petulant - riled off the ball and flustered by refereeing decisions.

Defeat to the Wallabies should have been the wake-up call the All Blacks needed. Instead they were lulled into another false sense of security in the form of the Pumas, who had not played a Test in 402 days before their historic upset in one of Test rugby's greatest defensive displays.

Dane Coles later conceded being among the All Blacks to suffer the first loss against the Pumas would scar him for the remainder of his career.

Successive defeats for the first time in nine years did not sit well with the ruthless New Zealand rugby public. Foster was in the gun, with many calling for him to be sacked.

All Blacks captain Sam Cane was nothing short of magnificent each and every Test but his comments following the loss to the Pumas, in which he questioned the knowledge of New Zealand rugby fans, further fuelled the fury.

Under such intense pressure to front, two weeks on from the Pumas defeat, the All Blacks did just that. This time their pack laid an impeccable platform by bringing the urgency absent from their previous core clean and carry duties and steamrolling the revamped Pumas scrum.

Five tries-to-none is comprehensive - yet many were not entirely satisfied with the excessive kicking and squandered tries. The context around the Pumas making 10 starting changes must also be considered.

Foster and his new management team - John Plumtree, Greg Feek, Brad Mooar - desperately needed to finish with a dominant statement to simmer the heat.

A perfect performance that delivered total reassurance the All Blacks have regained their mojo this was not.

It did, however, prove their ability to drill down into specific areas of improvement and respond in the face of fever pitch criticism.

As they reflect on this year, and cast ahead to the next, Foster will hope the likes of Will Jordan, Akira Ioane, Caleb Clarke and Hoskins Sotutu kick on.

Other prospects - Cullen Grace, Dalton Papalii, Asafo Aumua and Peter Umaga-Jensen - wait in the wings, all largely unused due to the All Blacks needing to front with their first-choice side.

Brodie Retallick returns from Japan next year, in a significant boost, along with Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara who will both skip Super Rugby 2021 through one-season sabbaticals.

After a turbulent 2020, major improvements will be demanded of this group next year.

Foster will absorb plenty of lessons from his first season at the helm but with Italy and Fiji scheduled to tour New Zealand in July, the next genuine test won't arrive until the Rugby Championship when the world champion Springboks will be a sought-after scalp.

The final point to consider is while the All Blacks form fluctuated dramatically, their attacking-minded attitude is infinitely preferable to much of the turgid, box kick-loving Northern Hemisphere Test rugby dished up at present.

In an ideal world attack and winning goes hand-in-hand yet too often in these defensive dominated times the opposite is true.