The All Blacks made a big statement with a 51-20 victory against the Wallabies in Auckland on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
New Zealand have now won 33 consecutive matches at Eden Park since 1994, and extend their Bledisloe Cup dominance to 12 years.
The match was won in the first half when the All Blacks didn't concede any points when they were down to 14 men, and then scored two tries when they had 15 against 14. The world champions played the game at such a high tempo throughout the 80 minutes that the Wallabies must have been praying for the rain that had been such a great leveller in Sydney last weekend.
Unlike that 12-12 draw, this was an entertaining contest, with both teams keen to have a go in dry conditions.
Kurtley Beale and Aaron Cruden exchanged early penalties, but it was the All Blacks who applied the most pressure, with a knock-on from Wycliff Palu on the Wallabies' 22 being followed by wave after wave of attack. Aaron Smith and Richie McCaw both took quick penalty taps instead of going for posts, which showed their team's attacking intent, although the latter did not take it from the mark so they ended up taking the three points after all.
Another onslaught resulted in another Cruden penalty, and that was followed by the Wallabies' best period of play, which saw Beale get through the first tackle and find Israel Folau. The visitors lost possession soon after, close to the tryline, but would level the scores with a Beale penalty after McCaw had kicked the ball out of a ruck while lying on the ground. The All Blacks captain was yellow-carded (by French referee Romain Poite) for only the second time in his 129-Test career.
But the Wallabies couldn't make their one-man advantage count, as the All Blacks slowed the game down well and Cruden slotted his third penalty.
The situation was then reversed when, just before McCaw returned to the field, Rob Simmons was sin-binned for lifting a player's leg in a maul for the second time.
Cruden's penalty attempt went wide of the right-hand upright, but the All Blacks began to dominate, smashing the Wallabies' seven-man scrum and then launching an attack that resulted in Brodie Retallick being held up over the tryline. Another massive scrum from the hosts then saw Poite run under the crossbar and award a penalty try.
Australia responded with a strong run from Folau, but he opted not to pass to the man on his outside, Nathan Charles. Folau was clearly high-tackled by Cory Jane, but it was missed by the officials, and the Wallabies went wide to the right, where Sam Carter lost the ball in the tackle. That allowed the All Blacks to counter-attack, with Cruden throwing a dummy and then putting Julian Savea away for a try that made it 23-6 at the break.
The All Blacks struck again 10 minutes into the second half when they forced a turnover close to their 22 and counter-attacked. A clever kick off the inside of Savea's boot was collected by Malakai Fekitoa, and while the replacement centre was tackled just short of the line, Sam Whitelock put Kieran Read over from the ruck.
McCaw then scored two tries from driving mauls, the first of which secured the bonus point, before the Wallabies hit back with two tries that added a little respectability to the scoreline. First, Beale's inside pass put Folau over and then Michael Hooper broke away from the back of a lineout driving maul.
An outstanding cover tackle from Beauden Barrett prevented Folau from getting another, before the All Blacks were again reduced to 14 men when Ben Franks was binned for slapping the ball down with three minutes to go.
But that didn't prevent the hosts from scoring a sixth converted try, through Steven Luatua, that took them past 50.
All Blacks – Tries: Penalty try, Julian Savea, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (2), Steven Luatua. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (5), Aaron Smith. Penalties: Cruden (3).
Wallabies – Tries: Israel Folau, Michael Hooper. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (2). Penalties: Beale (2).
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images