The All Blacks beat the Wallabies 37-10 in Auckland on Saturday to claim their 18th consecutive win as well as the tier-one record, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Mission accomplished. After winning the 2015 World Cup, and after finishing the 2016 Rugby Championship unbeaten, Steve Hansen's All Blacks have realised yet another lofty objective. On Saturday at Eden Park, New Zealand became the first tier-one Test side in history to record its 18th straight victory.
The All Blacks have finished the 2016 Bledisloe Cup series undefeated. They have claimed their 45th consecutive win in New Zealand. You would expect them to go on from here, to win all their games on the end-of-year tour to Europe and edge closer to the all-time record of 24 consecutive wins, which is currently held by Cyprus.
The performance on Saturday was not without error. Goal-kickers Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden missed four attempts between them. There were times when the All Blacks' rush defence was exposed.
And yet, there was something familiar about the way the All Blacks shifted gear in the second stanza. The game appeared to be in the balance after 51 minutes, with the All Blacks leading by just five points. The hosts proceeded to score three tries and as many as 22 points in the final half hour.
The Wallabies will be disappointed with one particular call by the officials early in the second half. The visitors had the momentum at that stage, and a breakaway by Henry Speight down the right wing appeared to have propelled them into the lead.
After consulting with TMO Shaun Veldsman, referee Nigel Owens ruled that Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty had prevented Julian Savea from reaching Speight. The try was disallowed.
It would be unfair to describe this incident as game-costing, or even a turning point. Indeed, the All Blacks were robbed by a similar gaffe only moments later.
The Wallabies lost the ball backwards, and Dane Coles reacted by kicking the ball over the tryline. The All Blacks hooker showed great speed to reach the ball, but was held back by Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley. Instead of awarding the All Blacks a penalty try, Veldsman and Owens decided that Foley had grounded the ball fairly.
The visitors also missed three shots on goal over the course of the match. While their attack had the All Blacks stretched in the first 50 minutes, their defence let them down in the final 30.
Cruden slotted a penalty in the 64th minute to take the All Blacks 15 points clear of the Wallabies. Thereafter, Savea smashed his way through the Wallabies defence to score his second try, and set up another for Coles.
The All Blacks will face Ireland (Chicago), Italy (Rome), Ireland (Dublin) and France (Paris) in November.
All Blacks – Tries: Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea (2), Dane Coles. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalty: Cruden.
Wallabies – Tries: Rory Arnold. Conversion: Bernard Foley. Penalty: Foley.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu. 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 David Pocock, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images