All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and captain Kieran Read lamented an uncharacteristically ill-disciplined performance after suffering a 47-26 defeat by Australia in Perth on Saturday.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Kieran Read commended the Australians on their performance and conceded that his team’s lack of possession and inability to maintain their discipline throughout the 80 minutes, cost them the game.
‘They were really good tonight, and we knew that would be the case. We couldn’t get our hands on the ball and that really hurt us after half time. We can’t give away that many missed tackles – we have to be better than that.’
In contrast, a visibly fatigued Michael Hooper was pleased by the performance of his side who recorded their highest-ever points tally against their close rivals in 164 test matches.
‘We’re delighted. It was a terrific performance. We’re growing as a team. It’s a step at a time. We did it here tonight, but we pack our bags tomorrow and look forward.’
Speaking to the media after the game, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen echoed Read’s words about the team’s lack of discipline but praised his team’s unquestionable character in defence after going down to 14 men following Scott Barrett’s red card.
‘We’re disappointed with the result. Australia played well and were the best side on the day, so they deserved to win. The red card didn’t help our cause but our discipline was poor, particularly in the first half.
‘I’m still proud of the team’s effort to hang in there after the red card, but it’s difficult against a team who wants to play fast like Australia, so credit to them.’
Besides numerous missed tackles and the Barrett incident late in the first half, an altercation between Hooper and Ardie Savea resulted in the All Blacks conceding an unnecessary penalty, further adding to Hansen’s disappointment.
‘That’s dumb footy. We’ve got to be smarter than that. The squad is disappointed because we didn’t perform to the standards where we should be. Australia made it difficult for us but we don’t need to push any panic buttons. We’ll learn to get our discipline right, make our tackles and get our game structure right by turning up and playing well.’
The Wallabies dominated possession early on in the first half with an unusually high penalty count against the Kiwis. Despite scoring four tries themselves, the All Blacks will surely have to up their defensive game heading into the second Test in Auckland next week.
The Australians’ ability to capitalise on their man advantage, particularly early on in the second half, was highlighted by Read when questioned about the difficulty in playing half the game with a man down.
‘The Aussies play the game at pace, so they limited our ability to get set and try to defend. The main lesson to take away is that our discipline needs to improve.’
Read added that the All Blacks care deeply about the Bledisloe Cup and will give their all to retain the famous trophy which they have held since 2002.
‘For us, we’ll have to turn up and put all our efforts into it. We can’t perform like we did tonight and expect to win next week. We’ll look to make a change and back ourselves. That’s what we do as All Blacks.’
With Brodie Retallick out injured as well as Barrett likely to face a disciplinary hearing and potentially being suspended, Hansen will have to consider another specialist lock with three weeks remaining until the All Blacks name their 31-man squad for Japan.
‘There are a lot of balls in the air at the moment, with Brodie’s availability and now with Scott, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen. We have to stay calm, see what happens and come up with alternative plans.’