The All Blacks ruthlessly exposed the gulf in class with Australia, Akira Ioane leadng the way with a near perfect performance and despite a red card that the Kiwis intend to fight if needed: they’re the top line notes from New Zealand’s media coverage of their impressive Bledisloe Cup clean sweep.
NZ coach Ian Foster also left his stud marks on Australia’s admin for suggesting, in his opinion, that their initial decision not to travel showed they lacked commitment.
The All Blacks overcame the loss of a player for 20 minutes, due to Jordie Barrett’s high flying studs to the face of Marika Koroibete, and only poor goal kicking stopped them from hitting a half century of points for a second game running as they cruised to a 38-21 victory in Perth.
New Zealand play two matches against Argentina, before facing South Africa, with the Kiwi media clearly excited about that power struggle against the Springboks.
“No disrespect to Argentina, but anticipation for the All Blacks’ game with South Africa in Townsville on September 25 has surely zoomed past “toddler waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve” levels,” wrote Phil Gifford in the NZ Herald.
“In their 38-21 belting of the Wallabies in Perth, I hopefully saw the grit that’ll be needed to take on the heavy armament that is at the heart of the South Africa side.
“Yes, the six tries were thrilling, but for the purist, and the anxious, it was the work at the breakdowns, the willingness and the skill to scrap expertly and tirelessly for the ball, that was just as satisfying.
“The Wallabies, as expected, are still not good enough to be a real threat to this revitalised All Black side, but as raw as some of the Aussie players are they give it 100 per cent physically.”
Marc Hinton, writing in stuff.co.nz, had a harsh assement of the Wallabies’ first half efforts. The hosts had an extra man for the end of it, yet squandered good field position, and let David Havili over for a try that gave the All Blacks an 18-0 halftme lead.
“Their first-half effort was a joke,” wrote Hinton. “Noah Lolesio missed a gift 3-pointer from more or less in front. Tom Banks kicked dead when going for the lineout off a penalty. Then, with the All Blacks down to 14, the Wallabies actually conceded a try just before halftime and lost the 20-minute period 5-0.
“They also coughed up six tries to the New Zealanders, which is just too many if you hope to give yourself any chance at this level. Once again they gifted another intercept as well, and missed 19 tackles all told.
“They are very much their own worst enemies at this stage of their development. The All Blacks, on the other hand, are flying. They left three key starters behind, and barely missed a beat, good enough to overcome the unsettling red, the numerical disadvantage and cruise to a six tries to three victory that would have been a lot more conclusive but for a shocking one-for-six day on conversions.”
Hinton questioned the decision of New Zealand Rugby to extend coach Ian Foster’s contract as coach before they faced off against the Springboks.
“Jordie Barrett’s red card was possibly harsh, possibly fair. But that contentious decision only highlighted the chief takeaway from Sunday night’s Rugby Championship clash in Perth – these Wallabies of Dave Rennie’s are just not very good,” wrote Hinton.
“It’s why the decision to extend Ian Foster’s contract on the basis of the All Blacks essentially only measuring themselves against the Australians in 2021 remains a puzzling one.
“That’s not to say it’s not the right call. Things are progressing very well for him this year indeed. But surely a little more evidence could have been banked before that pivotal decision was made. Like playing someone not named the Wallabies.”
Gregor Paul, writing in the NZ Herald, said the difference between the teams might have come as a shock to the Australians.
“The Wallabies have had a rising sense they were getting close to the All Blacks this year – maybe just a pass or two and a bit of luck separating them from the All Blacks,” Paul wrote.
“They were relieved of that notion in Perth by an All Blacks performance that illustrated these two teams are not as close as the Wallabies believed.
“There were just too many ways in which the All Blacks were better than the Wallabies. From being more physical, more cohesive and more aware, to being so much more composed, strategically on point and clinical.”
Paul praised the All Blacks for a victory “grafted and blasted, with the odd creative twist that became a flurry towards the end of the game when the Wallabies were dying on their feet.
“The world has become used to hailing the linespeed of the likes of South Africa and England, implying, perhaps inadvertently, that the All Blacks aren’t in the same league when it comes to defending.
“This was a performance that has forced a rethink, a reason to re-evaluate the potential of this All Blacks team, or at least, be aware that they have more strings to their bow than has been assumed and they are just as capable as the Boks of being able to weaponise their defence.”
Of Australia, he concluded: “The curious thing is that this was easily the Wallabies’ best performance of the series and yet they looked to be further behind than when they pushed the All Blacks to the wire at Eden Park in Test one.”
Paul was glowing about the performance of the Ioane brothers – Rieko and Akira “making their presence felt in the most telling way.
“Akira certainly brought the All Blacks points no other player on the planet would have while Rieko was so sharp and so penetrative that the Wallabies panicked every time he had the ball,” he wrote.
Akira Ioane was given a perfect 10 out of 10 in the stuff.co.nz player ratings.
“Absolute barnstroming display,” they wrote. “On the back of an outstanding effort at Eden Park three weeks ago, this was up even more notches. Went to No 8 with the skipper off and along with getting involved in the tight stuff, exploded around the park with ball in hand, unselfishly setting up both Jordan and Lienert-Brown for their tries. Made a whopping 82 metres with game-high numbers for clean breaks (three) and defenders beaten (nine).”
Australia is faced with selection decisions to make before hosting the Springboks on Saturday. It’s unlikely Quade Cooper will form part of the thinking, but former All Black Sonny Bill Williams felt the Wallabies missed a trick by not including him in Perth.
“The non-selection that baffled me before the game was the non-selection of Quade Cooper,” Williams said on Stan Sport.
“I know that it might be biased coming from my lips, because I’m close to him but just from a rugby point of view, what he can add…
“Brother Reece [Hodge], he’s Mr Fix-It, he’s a great player but I think in terms of unlocking this great All Blacks defence, Quade is your man.”
Foster was, meanwhile, in combative form afterwards.
“I didn’t really like questions about our attitude not being committed a few weeks ago – we were 100 per cent committed – and the team showed that,” he told reporters.
“An All Blacks team always wants to turn up and play and it really did come down to our attitude on defence. We put them under a lot of pressure through our defence and we forced them into some errors and loose offloads.
“We were really committed, the desire to play and look for opportunities and attack both with and without the ball was clear and obvious and we stuck at it. It wasn’t a picture-perfect game in many ways but the attitude to run and scramble was outstanding.”
Foster said he was surprised by the red card to Barrett, which did divide fans and pundits. Rennie had said he thought the decision a fair one.
“I’m pretty surprised, to be honest,“ said Foster.
“We’ll go and have a good look at it, but certainly we’ll probably be putting a bit of a case together for that one.”
Barrett could be suspended for close to the rest of The Rugby Championship.
“He just lost balance and you could see he tilted, and you could see what happened,” said Foster.
“I feel for the refs in situations like this. Technically they saw things and they make their decisions. I get all that. Now we’ve got a chance to sit down and analyse it, we’ll have a good couple of conversations.
“But have we got a technique problem? No, we haven’t.”
Foster praised the SANZAAR ruling change which meant his team weren’t forced to play the rest of the match with 14 men.
“It’s why all the SANZAAR countries were pretty united in wanting to carry on this global trial,” he said.
“It’s easy to ask me my opinion because we were the ones on the end of it, so we probably benefited by only having a 20-minute red card. I get that.
“But we were keen supporters of that even before the game and today’s [incident] probably justifies that.”
Foster said he would take a lot out of the performance, as they looked ahead to Argentina and then South Africa.
“We’ve just put 3-0 on Australia which we’re proud of. We’re going to get dealt cards with selections, injuries and all that the next four weeks anyway, then with five consecutive Tests on the northern tour, and adapting and adjusting to pictures has been a theme already.
“That’s probably what makes me most excited about the performance. We were chopping and changing. We sent Tupou [Va’i] to go on at 6, and Scott Barrett said ‘I’m going to play 6’, and Tupou went to lock. They were coming up with their own solutions.
“I just love the thinking on the park. Sometimes we get critical of the team when get stuck, we have one plan and can’t adapt and adjust. But I think the attitude today in that space was brilliant and we’ll grow from that.”