New Zealand thrashed Australia 34-54 in Sydney at the ANZ Stadium in the opening Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship match of 2017.
The All Blacks raced to 6-54 lead after 50 minutes, scoring eight tries in the process as Michael Cheika’s team disintegrated in record fashion, conceding the most points in a Test at home against the Kiwis.
Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty both scored twice, either side of Liam Squire and Sonny Bill Williams’ tries in a pulsating opening half by the defending champions.
Bernard Foley’s two early penalties were all the home team had to show until the second half.
Damian McKenzie scored his first Test try and Ben Smith, his 28th, eight minutes after the break as the Kiwis ran rampant in front of a 54,846 strong crowd.
However, the Wallabies did not give up, scoring four tries and 28 unanswered points in the final half hour against the reigning world champions.
Off the field events of the past week did not derail New Zealand’s focus.
This was a devastating attacking display from Steve Hansen’s side, mixing sharp first phases attacks with brutal counter-attacking play as they cut through a sorry Wallabies defence.
Sam Cane was a juggernaut making 21 tackles, hounding the opposition and causing havoc at the breakdown.
Brodie Retallick’s work-rate was immense and his handling in the build-up to Crotty’s first try, including a one-two switch with Beuden Barrett, was superb.
The Kiwi scrum was mostly dominant, but that is what we have come to expect, especially against the regularly lightweight Wallaby pack.
The Wallabies’ defensive system was a mess.
Australia missed 48 tackles to the Kiwis’ 40 for a game total of 88, with an aggregate score of 88 points; not a statistic for the purist, but this is Southern Hemisphere rugby, winning, running rugby.
Most of the All Blacks slipped tackles came after the game was already won, as they took their foot off the gas in the last 27 minutes, conceding four goals.
The Australian backline looked like a side that had only met on the morning of the game. Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi slipped tackles and leaving gaps that you could drive the team bus through.
And so the Kiwi backs did, exploiting the porous defence, time and again. Ioane, McKenzie, Sonny Bill, Crotty and Barrett ran rings around and through the staggered yellow wall.
Curtis Rona and Kerevi’s partnership on the outside did no favours for Israel Folau, who could not cover gaps left as the All blacks shredded the Wallabies.
Cheika was not happy at the break and cut a frustrated figure during his in-play interview, but he would have been happy that his side did not give up, showing fight and eradicating their earlier defensive lapses.
The All Blacks were in cruise control and, if not for a 50/50 call with the TMO and some poor handling in the red zone, they could, and should have, scored a few more tries.
This loss makes it one win from the last 17 Tests for the Aussies (two draws) since 2011, a record that does not look like changing next week in Dunedin.
Despite the comeback, next week’s venture, under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, could be another long night for the men in gold.
Final score: Australia 34 (6) New Zealand 54 (40)
Tries – Rona, Kuridrani, Beale, Folau
Pen – Foley (6)
Tries – Squire, R. Ioane (2), Crotty (2), Williams, McKenzie, B. Smith
Con – B. Barrett (7)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Ref 1: Nigel Owens (Wales) (RFU)
Assistant Ref 2: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)
15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown