New Zealand dampened the rising confidence of Australian rugby and extended its 13-year hold on the Bledisloe Cup by crushing the Wallabies 51-20 Saturday in the Rugby Championship.
Australia entered the match hopeful of ending a 28-year, 17-test losing streak at Eden Park after holding the All Blacks to a 12-12 draw in Sydney last weekend. But New Zealand weathered the early sin-binning of its captain Richie McCaw and scored two tries - including a penalty try when the Wallabies were reduced to 14 men - to take a 23-6 lead into halftime.
McCaw then atoned for his disciplinary lapse by scoring two of his team’s four second-half tries in New Zealand’s biggest-ever win over Australia.
“I was just so proud of the boys,” McCaw said. “It felt like we’d lost come Monday last week but the boys really put the effort in.
“That (Bledisloe) Cup is really important to us. The boys wanted to put a performance together that would let us lock it up for another year if we performed tonight.”
Among the backs, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, newcomer Ryan Crotty and first try-scorer Julian Savea, especially, tore holes in the Australian defence and the All Blacks threatened to score on many more occasions as they used an overwhelming share of possession.
Crotty, who replaced the injured Ma’a Nonu at inside centre in his first test start, provided an outstanding for the backline in the first half but was forced from the field at halftime with a fractured cheekbone. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith sniped effectively around scrums and the fringes of rucks and flyhalf Aaron Cruden had one of his most confident and effective performances in tests.
McCaw was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 12th minute when the All Blacks were leading 6-3. Kurtley Beale levelled the scores at 6-6 with the ensuing penalty, but the All Blacks were able to control possession and the pace of the game and took a 9-6 lead in his absence.
“I thought Richie’s yellow card and Ben Franks’, both of those yellow cards were dumb by us,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “They were thoroughly deserved.
“But I could tell we were in the game. There was intensity in our defence and we were coming forward and putting them under pressure. They dropped a few balls in the first 20 minutes which was not like Australia.
The Wallabies defended desperately and protected their line until the 26th minute when lock Brodie Retallick crashed over near the posts.
French referee Romain Poite ruled the ball had been held up and chose not to refer the decision to the television match official. Replays showed the try had been scored.
Poite awarded a penalty try to New Zealand when Wallabies prop James Slipper attempted to pull down the scrum in front of the posts, though Poite could also have penalized scrumhalf Nic White seconds earlier.
The Wallabies produced an attacking raid of their own when fullback Israel Folau broke tackles and dashed almost 60 metres out of defence. But he was halted by a high tackle and went to ground with players in support; the All Blacks effected a turnover at the next phase and Cruden fled down the blindside, feeding Savea who scored.
New Zealand’s dominance continued into the second half as the Wallabies, with no possession, were faced with almost relentless waves of attack.
The All Blacks went into another wide-ranging raid 10 minutes into the second half. When Savea had the ball on the left flank without support he kicked ahead and three All Blacks converged on the ball near the goalline; replacement Malakai Fekitoa gathered it and Kieran Read crashed through to score.
McCaw then scored a 55th minute try from a concerted drive following a lineout. His 23rd test try was also his 10th against Australia, an All Blacks record. He then crossed again in almost identical circumstances four minutes later.
Australia showed character when it reduced the All Blacks’ margin with late tries to Folau and captain Michael Hooper. Folau took an inside pass from Beale to score a try trademarked this season by the New South Wales Waratahs and Hooper scored a brilliant individual try from a lineout.
All Blacks replacement Beauden Barrett was forced to make a try-saving tackle on Folau five minutes from the end and New Zealand then surged past 50 points with a try after the final siren to Steven Lutaua. The All Blacks ended the match with 14 men after the sin-binning of prop Ben Franks.
“The All Blacks were very good,” Hooper said. “They did very well off the sideline.
“We couldn’t get them to ground, their offloads started, they built pressure and we let them have pressure. It was good play from them and we couldn’t withstand it.”
New Zealand 51 (Richie McCaw 2, Julian Savea, Kieran Read, Steven Luatua tries; penalty try; Aaron Cruden 5 conversions, 3 penalties; Aaron Smith conversion), Australia 20 (Israel Folau, Michael Hooper tries; Kurtley Beale 2 conversions, 2 penalties). HT: 23-6.