The All Blacks have beaten the Wallabies by a good margin, 38-13, in the opening game of the Rugby Championship and take a 1-0 lead in the Bledisloe, the result likely made worse by an ankle injury to Israel Folau.
It’s a cliche as old as sport itself but it really was a game of two halves – one the Wallabies will be encouraged by, and one that they will pay specialists to help them forget.
That first half was both impressive and frustrating for fans as both sides put in great defensive performances but struggled to find rhythm with ball in hand.
As usual there will be discussion about how the All Blacks get the benefit of the doubt with the referees.
Early in the match Waisake Naholo could easily have been shown a yellow for a tip tackle on Israel Folau but Jaco Peyper decided not to ask the TMO and felt that a penalty was enough.
The All Blacks were out of sorts in attack in the opening 38 minutes – they struggled to create opportunities which is partly down to a surprising number of handling errors from them but mainly down to a well organised and fast defence from the Wallabies.
In the same fixture last year the Wallabies were doing realistic impressions of turnstiles as the All Blacks ran in try after try but today the Aussies were ruthless and organised.
In attack both sides struggled to find any rhythm and while each had periods where they put together long sequences of phases, neither really made much ground or punched damaging holes.
At the 38-minute mark it was 6-0 to the Wallabies and the All Blacks were starting to look a bit concerned.
But as is said so often the 10 minutes either side of half-time is key and the men in black delivered. A try either side of the break broke Aussie hearts, and the swing between halves had begun.
The second half not only saw the Kiwis score early with a try on debut for Jack Goodhue in the 44th minute, but also saw the Wallabies defence unable to live up to the standards of the first half. They fell off tackles and were slower on the rush up.
The All Blacks took full advantage and scored two more tries soon after Goodhue’s meaning that the lead was far too big for the Wallabies to hope to chase down.
While it was always going to be hard for the Wallabies to keep up their defensive pace, the area that cost them this game was their set piece.
They conceded penalties at the scrum and their line out became a weapon for the Kiwis. Seven lost line outs on their own throw is criminal at this level and you just cannot hope to give the All Blacks so much ball and not pay for it.
As the game went on the gulf between the two sides became more evident. Whereas Bernard Foley struggled to get involved in the game and have an impact, Beauden Barrett’s control over the match just grew and grew.
Where the All Blacks were able to reduce the handling errors of the first half, the Wallabies were dropping balls and giving away possession.
When the Wallabies had the ball they looked passionate but lacked creativity. When the Kiwis had the ball they looked clinical and ruthless.
Jaco Peyper will be in a lot of people’s discussions about this game – the referee will come in for a lot of flack for how he didn’t penalise the All Blacks but in the end the Wallabies made things far too hard for themselves.
The Wallabies will talk of positives and foundations to build on but in truth there are just as many questions as ever about whether this set of players and coaching staff have what it takes to compete at the top level.
Ireland made them look average over the three match series and the All Blacks showed the gap in class in the second 40 minutes today.
The Wallabies can likely kiss goodbye to the hopes of regaining the Bledisloe this year but they must, absolutely must beat the Springboks at least at home and the Pumas home and away in this championship.
This could be beyond them though and a year out from the World Cup they could find themselves in a very tricky position.
Fans will await news of how Israel Folau recovers from an ankle injury that saw him leave the field early.
Fans will also await an explanation of why Folau was not used more at restarts and in open play – he’s the Wallabies best attacking weapon and they have to get him in the game more.
The All Blacks will be disappointed that they started so slowly and while they only conceded points during that first half they will know that they were not up to scratch.
Next week will see the return leg over in Eden Park and you have to say that the result will be similar if not worse.