The good, the bad and the ugly of the All Blacks
REACTION: New Zealand maybe have started their Rugby Championship campaign with a bonus-point win, but there is much room for improvement.
The world champion All Blacks rebounded spectacularly to down the Wallabies 54-34 and continue the gloom in Australian rugby in their tournament opener in Sydney at the weekend.
It was New Zealand's biggest score over Australia, eclipsing their 51-20 win in Auckland three years ago.
While the Wallabies added some respectability to the score after trailing 6-54 with four tries in the final half-hour, the contest was finished after the first 50 minutes.
"The first 50 minutes was probably as good rugby as you will see, the last 30 minutes was probably some of the ugliest rugby," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
"I think we got a little seduced by the scoreboard and went away from the fundamentals of what we wanted to do, but I think it's about concentrating on what we did really well and that first 50 minutes was pretty special."
New Zealand's inability to put away the British and Irish Lions in their drawn home series last month had raised doubts over the All Blacks' era of dominance.
But they roared back in their inimitable fashion, posting an eight tries to four victory.
The win could not have come at a better time after a week studded with off-field distractions.
Lurid details of half back Aaron Smith's toilet tryst at Christchurch airport last year were published in the Australian media and were followed on Saturday by allegations of an extra-marital affair levelled at flank Jerome Kaino.
Kaino, who had been rested from the Sydney test, was sent home on Saturday to deal with a "personal issue", New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.
In addition, the week was peppered with revelations from the All Blacks camp during the trial of their former security guard, who was found not guilty on Friday of planting a bugging device in the team's meeting room last year.
"Rugby's always going to have moments where you are not happy with things that are going on but ultimately it's all about Saturday isn't it?," Hansen said.
"It's about winning the game and doing things that you are proud of. We've done that."
The World Cup-winning coach said he thought Smith had played "really well" on Saturday and bridled when asked whether Kaino would be considered for next week's return test in Dunedin.
"I think that's a pretty low question," he added.
"We all know what the problem is and he's got some stuff he's got to deal with and once he's dealt with that, we'll make some decisions."
Hansen and captain Kieran Read were much keener to talk about the side's display in running in eight tries to take a 54-6 lead in the 48th minute.
"Any time you can put that number of points on any international team that feels pretty good," Read said.
"And it really just came about by us doing the simple things well. We've got some talented players and we can give them go-forward ball and look after the ball in contact, things come off and the talent really shines."
Hansen's delight at the "really special" spell was tempered by what happened in the last 30 minutes but even that, he felt, might prove a useful wake-up call.
"The first 50 minutes was as good a rugby as you'll ever see and the last 30 some of the ugliest rugby," he said.
"I think we got a little seduced by the scoreboard and went away from some of the fundamentals of what we wanted to do.
"It's another learning for a group that's re-establishing itself and that will give us something to really focus on when we're going to Dunedin and that won't do us any harm.
"If we'd gone on and won the game the way we were playing in the first half, I don't think would have done us any good either."
Sources: Reuters & AFP