New Zealand have drawn first blood in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup with a totally comprehensive win over Australia in Sydney, in front of 65,328 fans.
It’s hard to know which was more telling, the All Blacks sharper and pacier off the back of Super Rugby finals, or the Wallabies simply poor – at lineout, with their handling and in defensive organization.
Beauden Barrett justified his starting selection at 10, with a superb display, showing his extreme pace to score and set up a try for Waisake Naholo – who enjoyed his best 40 minutes in a black jersey, until replaced.
He was one of a number replaced injured, the Wallabies enduring a horror night in the backs, with their only try scorer, Nick Phipps, playing out of position on the wing.
It was no excuse however, the shape of the game was already apparent, and the bird had already flown.
The All Blacks also had issues, Codie Taylor off after only one minute, but Dane Coles showed no sign of his rib injury and had a field day in open play.
All of the positive stats favoured New Zealand, unsurprising with the Wallabies’ error rate so high. Some of the handling in midfield was abysmal, one horrible error by Tevita Kuridrani leading to a second-half try to Coles.
It was turnover city out there, and if there is one team which the Wallabies can’t afford to do that against, it’s the All Blacks.
Coach Michael Cheika now faces a mammoth task in getting a competitive side onto the field for next week’s return match. And, strange as it may sound, there is a sneaky feeling that the All Blacks still have more to offer as well.
Australia did fight their way back into things in the second half, and looked better with some possession, but at 3-32 down at halftime, it was all academic really.
This one will take a while to digest – not that Wallabies fans will want to revisit the tape.
The All Blacks on the other hand, will have plenty of positive to take from the game, plus the usual work-ons.
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