The All Blacks claimed an emphatic 42-8 win against the Wallabies in Saturday's opening Rugby Championship match in Sydney. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
An hour before this match, the All Blacks revealed that they had discovered a listening device in their team room. The Australian Rugby Union denied having anything to do with it, but even if it had, and the Wallabies had received some vital intel, it wouldn't have helped them much, such is the gulf in class between these trans-Tasman rivals.
New Zealand were at their brilliant best during the first half, with four tries giving them a 32-3 lead. They dominated the collisions, kicked well out of hand, and punished the Wallabies' mistakes. Beauden Barrett, making just his 10th start in 40 Tests, more than justified his selection ahead of Aaron Cruden with a polished performance at flyhalf.
The visitors were less impressive during a second half that saw them empty their bench, but were still able to cross the line on another two occasions.
Based on this performance, the Springboks will have to play well above themselves just to get close to, never mind beat, these All Blacks.
The Wallabies came into the clash having not held the Bledisloe Cup for 13 years. They started reasonably well, with Bernard Foley kicking a penalty goal, but that is as good as it got for them.
The All Blacks' first two attacks had ended with a knock-on and a turnover respectively, but they made the third count, with the ball going wide to Ryan Crotty, who beat Dane Haylett-Petty, Matt Giteau and Will Genia on his way to the tryline. Barrett slotted the conversion.
The hosts suffered a further setback when Giteau hobbled off the field in the 12th minute with what appeared to be an ankle injury. They would lose two more centres, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne, in the first half.
Barrett was off target with his first penalty attempt at goal, before another sustained attack from the visitors saw them held up over the tryline. Referee Jaco Peyper was playing advantage, though, and this time Barrett made no mistake.
The All Blacks thought they had gone further ahead when Israel Folau's clearance kick was charged down, and the ball went quickly through Kiwi hands to Brodie Retallick, who crashed over. But the TMO ruled that Ben Smith had been in front of the charged-down kick before collecting the ball and the try was disallowed, although the All Blacks did get some reward for that period of dominance when Barrett's third penalty made it 13-3.
Two lost lineouts then cost the Wallabies dearly, as the All Blacks worked their way up from one end of the field to the other. They did well to keep the ball alive in the tackle, and Barrett ran a great supporting line to take the last pass and score his side's second converted try.
The Wallabies gifted the All Blacks another five points, in the 32nd minute, when Jerome Kaino charged down Foley's clearance kick and regathered the ball to score his first Bledisloe Cup try.
Barrett missed the conversion, but that didn't matter much as he played a big part in the All Blacks' fourth try, on the stroke of half-time. Waisake Naholo found Barrett near halfway and the flyhalf burst though a gap between two front rowers, before passing back to Naholo. The winger dived over to score, but pulled a hamstring in the process and was helped off the field.
It took the All Blacks 16 minutes of the second half to add to their tally, when Dane Coles rounded off an attack, but that was followed shortly after by a try to Julian Savea, who went over in the left-hand corner.
A string of penalties resulted in Kieran Read being yellow-carded for going offside in the 73rd minute, and the Wallabies crossed for their only try of the match, through Nick Phipps, soon after.
Israel Dagg did well to collect Barrett's pin-point cross-kick and score in the right-hand corner in the final minute, but the try was ruled out when TV replays showed a knock-on at an earlier ruck.
There was still time for the visitors to grab a seventh try, from a 5m scrum after the hooter, but their attack ended with a knock-on and the final whistle blew to put the Wallabies out of their misery.
Wallabies – Try: Nick Phipps. Penalty: Bernard Foley.
All Blacks – Tries: Ryan Crotty, Beauden Barrett, Jerome Kaino, Waisake Naholo, Dane Coles, Julian Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Rob Horne.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Julian Savea.
Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images