New Zealand has completed a clean sweep over Australia for the 2016 season, winning the third Bledisloe Cup Test by 37 points to 10 at Eden Park in Auckland and in doing so have become the first tier one international side to record 18 straight victories.
While the scoreboard would suggest a comfortable All Black victory, it was anything but as the Wallabies turned in a somewhat surprising performance in a keenly fought and hotly contested performance.
All the wash-up from Bledisloe Cup 3:
» LORD: Nick Phipps shines
» What changes should the Wallabies make?
» DIY player ratings
» Read the match report
» Re-live the action with our live blog
» Watch the highlights
The All Blacks only managed to pull away in the closing stages of the match.
Here are some talking points from the game.
After shrugging off a sluggish start, probably from a lack of cohesion from a new-look starting backline, conceding two tries early the Australian defence worked very hard, pressuring the All Blacks into a number of errors and poor choices.
There was a significant improvement in terms of aggression and commitment in the tackle and a tremendous base to work from heading onto the Northern tour.
It was rather noticeable how much flatter Bernard Foley was standing and for the most part he took the ball to the line well, created options and was responsible for some sharp passing.
The Wallabies found a lot of ground against the All Blacks around the fringes and the inside ball worked well. Supported with hard and direct running from the Wallaby pack, the Wallabies regularly made the advantage line and had the New Zealanders back peddling on a number of occasions.
Credit has to go to the All Black defence however, still only conceding the one try for the eighty minutes under significant pressure.
The All Blacks certainly started to pull away noticeably from the 50th minute through to the 65th, again aided by the impetus gained from the bench.
I could not help but wonder if Michael Cheika waited too long to use his fresh legs from the pine. Whether it would have made a difference to the end result is purely speculation but the wallabies fell off the pace there for a time and perhaps this will be a future consideration.
All Black counter attack
On a number of occasions the All Blacks over the last few years (if not longer) have managed to pull themselves out of the mire by seising upon their opponents’ mistakes to score a much needed try or swing the momentum of the match and last night was no different.
Opponents should be aware, you don’t just have to play well to beat them, you also have to eliminate your errors and be efficient in all aspects of your play – otherwise its curtains.
Case and point from last night, it was a closely fought contest yet the All Blacks still won by 27. When one considers the missed kicks at goal as well, it could have been worse.
Beauden Barrett’s goal kicking
Barrett has certainly earned his starting opportunity at first five this season and has performed incredibly well, yet his goal kicking is decidedly below par. As many theorised, his 44th minute substitution for Aaron Cruden was perhaps a result of this of what looked at that point to be a close match.
Steve Hansen made mention after the match that Barrett had been under the weather in the lead up to this match. However the continued woes from the tee has to be a concern. If he is intent on remaining the number one pivot, you would have to think he simply has to improve this aspect of his game.
Has Cheika finally found his best starting second row? I think so with Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold performing very well last night.
Up against an established pair in Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock and certainly not outshone.
Both relatively young, the opportunity is there to grow a formidable partnership and no doubt there will be plenty of improvement the more they play together. I wonder if Cheika will see it the same way or will further tinkering be made?
That TMO call
Live I thought it was a fair try to Henry Speight and had no real issue with Dane Haylett Petty’s ‘lane changing’, however it was ruled a penalty for his interference on the chasing Julian Savea after the TMO intervened after the try was scored.
After a few more viewings I can see why the TMO and Nigel Owens arrived at their conclusion but in my mind, it was a fair try and I am sure you could find several instances from this season alone where such tries have been awarded in similar circumstances.
It was a significant decision in the circumstances though I am doubtful it would have made an overall difference to the result with a significant amount of time left to play.
The Cooper boo
Seriously? I just do not get it, come on guys, can’t we just make like frozen and ‘let it go?’ It is really embarrassing.
Those are my talking points from the third Bledisloe and I am sure there are plenty of others. While the Wallabies were defeated, they can take plenty away from this performance and look towards their Grand Slam tour with plenty of confidence.
The All Blacks, though having secured a new record and continue on an unbeaten 2016, know they have plenty to work on to keep themselves up the front of the pack heading away on their Northern tour.
What are your thoughts from the latest Eden Park encounter?