A ruthless All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year in record-breaking style yesterday, blitzing a young Australian team 43-5 to reinforce their trans-Tasman dominance.
After winning 27-7 in Auckland, which followed a tense 16-16 draw in Wellington, they accomplished their mission in Sydney by their biggest ever winning margin against the Wallabies, with one match of the series to go next week.
Richie Mo’unga bagged 23 points to ensure bragging rights went to New Zealand coach Ian Foster, who like his opposite number Dave Rennie is in charge for his first Bledisloe Cup tournament.
“It’s more than a relief, it’s exciting. It’s a lot of feelings but I’m just really proud of the group and excited about what’s ahead,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane, adding that the team would celebrate with “a few fizzies”. While the match was the third Bledisloe fixture, it was also the first of the Tri Nations also featuring Argentina — rebranded from the Rugby Championship after world champions South Africa pulled out.
In front of just 25,000 fans at a wet ANZ Stadium, below the 38,000 allowed under coronavirus rules, the All Blacks overwhelmed the Wallabies in a breathtaking first half that saw two yellow cards, four tries and two disallowed tries.
A ragged Australia was fortunate to only be down 26-0 at the break and there was no way back for Rennie’s men despite lifting their game in the second stanza.
While the Wallabies cut down on missed tackles, New Zealand were physically too strong and again exposed the frailties of their defensive wall.
And they badly missed the calming presence of experienced backs Matt To’omua and James O’Connor, who were both out with injuries.
The opening 10 minutes was action-packed with Filipo Daugunu yellow-carded for tackling All Blacks dangerman Caleb Clarke in the air.
Australia paid the price with New Zealand prop Karl Tu’inukuafe powering over for his maiden Test try on four minutes.
Jordie Barrett joined Daugunu on the sidelines for elbowing Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty in the face, before All Blacks hooker Dane Coles had a try disallowed on review for a knock on.
The Wallabies were desperately defending and only a top-class tackle from Marika Koroibete on the line prevented Clarke stretching New Zealand’s lead.
But the All Blacks were red-hot and Mo’unga scored a brilliant individual try, beating three players, to pile more pressure on. He then bagged another, sprinting almost half the length of the field after a Beauden Barrett chip, before Coles finally got the try he deserved after a superb rolling maul from the forwards allowed him to dot down in the corner.
Australia looked dejected stomping off at half-time but Rennie’s pep talk appeared to work and they were far more disciplined at the start of the second period.
And in a hopeful sign for the future, 20-year-old debutant Noah Lolesio romped over for a try a minute after the restart following a barnstorming run from Jordan Petaia, who is also 20. The game slowed down with conditions heavy and after several botched Australian attacks, man-of-the match Mo’unga booted a penalty and Reiko Ioane darted over for their fifth try.
Jordie Barrett rubbed salt in their wounds with another try as the clock ticked down.
It was the first time since 2009 the All Blacks had wrapped up the Bledisloe series on Australian soil and proved sweet revenge for their last game in Australia, when they were whalloped 47-26 in Perth.
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