Time and again the Wallabies built promisingly, only to lack cohesion in midfield, with the wrong option picked time and again, typified by the intercept tries. New Zealand feast on that broken field play. –Jonathan Howcroft, The Guardian


By Roger Childs

Last weekend before a packed Eden Park in Auckland the All Blacks won the first trans-Tasman test 33-25. It wasn’t a great performance by the home team as with 20 minutes to go they had a 25 point lead. All last week the media was full of we must do better stories and the team certainly rose to the occasion last night in front of a half empty stadium. It was an emphatic 8-try trouncing of the Wallabies with the final score-line being a record 57-22. With only six points separating the teams at half time, the All Blacks then ran riot in the second forty minutes. 

So the three test series for the Bledisloe Cup, which the Australians haven’t held for 19 years, has been decided in two.

Dramatic start

In the first test last week the first quarter was a boring session with a number of disrupted Australian lineouts and penalties given away by the All Blacks. But last night an intercept and 80-metre run by Reiko Loane in the 8th minute put the home side ahead 7-0 against the run of play. Shortly after, the Wallabies went on to the attack and from a perfectly timed cross kick, Andrew Kellaway was over in the corner.

Then Brodie Retallick, back to his top form, scored under the posts in one of the best passing movements of the match. The game continued to ebb and flow with both sides playing attractive running rugby. Ardie Savea scored near the posts with Codie Taylor’s help, but the 21-8 lead was short lived as Wallaby half back Tate McDermott scored under the posts after a dart from a handy scrum. It had been an exciting first half with the small crowd entertained by open rugby featuring strong running, slick passing, excellent backing up and accurate kicking. Little did the spectators, and the fans in front of their sets back home, realise that the second half would be even better.

The flood gates open

At 21-15 the Australians were still right in it and a yellow card to Ardie Savea in the 42nd minute gave them an advantage that could have led to an evening up of the series. But the Wallabies couldn’t capitalize and gave away too many penalties as the All Blacks dug deep and were staunch on defence. Down to 14 men it was the home team who scored next when Aaron Smith made a great break down the right flank from near half way and set up Codie Taylor to score. Then with the clock ticking for Ardie Savea to return to the field Damien McKenzie kicked a penalty from just inside his own half.

The tries now flowed and the All Blacks won the second half 33-7. The Wallabies never gave up, but the home team was on fire and as well as dominating in the open, gained the ascendancy in the scrums. The All Blacks reserves provided fresh legs and, unlike last week, they all played well on attack and defence.

A much improved performance

All the players stepped up from last week with the loose forwards in excellent form demonstrating superb tackling and dangerous running in the open, and all the backs took their opportunities in either scoring or helping to set up tries. Richie Mo’unga ran the game brilliantly from first five, and his darting running, line and goal kicking were of top quality.  

There was no relaxing in the last quarter and the team keep on applying the pressure to the end. This was exemplified when substitute full back Beauden Barrett fielded a kick deep in his own half after 80 minutes had ticked over, but instead of putting the ball out to end the game, launched an attack which ended in David Havilli sliding over for the home team’s final try.

The teams will meet again in Perth for the final Bledisloe Cup match. But even thought this a “dead rubber” for the Cup it is also part of the Four Nations series with Argentina and South Africa, a competition the All Blacks are keen to win.