All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup
All Blacks retain Bledisloe CupSHARE
New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup with another emphatic victory over Australia, winning 27-16 in Wellington on Saturday.
While the All Blacks managed to retain one of the many trophies in their possession, it was also four invaluable points in the Rugby Championship – as the Kiwis continue their world dominance.
Another aspect is that the margin and manner of the win has left new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie with more questions than answers, as his team's one rare bright moment turned out to be an intercept try late in the second half.
Again, as was the case last week, there was little to see of the much-promised attacking game Australia were going to put on display under McKenzie's stewardship.
The Wallabies had more purpose to their play, and initially their forwards muscled up more than last week.
While Matt Toomua did take the ball to the line far more than last week, the Aussies still opted to attack the advantage line mostly with their forwards – hoping to pull in some defenders.
The problems for the Wallabies was that they all too often got on the wrong side of the referee and were penalised regularly the breakdown, as well as occasionally the scrums.
The All Blacks, in turn, showed they still have a penchant for rather conceding a penalty inside their 22 than allowing the opposition a five-pointer. Those professional fouls have become a trademark of the New Zealanders.
They were very fortunate referee Jaco Peyper did not reach into his pocket, as there were a number of occasions when the Kiwis' indiscretions were very blatant.
But, as was the case last week, the real difference was New Zealand's clinical finishing – with any half-chance turned into points – such as the decisive try just before the half-time break.
The All Blacks also attacked James O'Connor's wing with great effect, offering Ben Smith many try-scoring opportunities.
They also made a mockery of the Wallaby set pieces. The scrums in particular was a mess for the visitors, the Kiwis winning a couple of vital turnovers in this facet after the break.
All Blacks also worked hard on putting pressure on Will Genia's kicking game and had some success.
The game started very shaky, a couple of sloppy early mistakes – Will Genia having his first clearance kick charged down and Israel Dagg's first kick going directly into touch.
The Wallabies, after working their way upfield with a couple of kicks and some strong forward rushes, earned a penalty – which Christian Lealiifano slotted for an early 3-0 lead.
From the restart the All Blacks came charging back with purpose and earned a penalty, but rookie Tom Taylor hooked it wide as the conditions continued to deteriorate.
The next scoring chance went to the Wallabies, but Lealiifano was wide of the mark after the All Blacks were penalised for deliberately slapping the ball down. However, minutes later Lealiifano kicked a penalty after another professional foul by the All Blacks – 6-0.
The All Blacks, as they so often do, hit back hard. The try went to Ben Smith, after a great run down the right touchline, but it was set up when Kieran Read reclaimed a kick ahead and set in motion the attack. Taylor slotted the conversion and New Zealand hit the front or the first time just short of the half-hour mark – 7-6.
Three minutes from the half-time break that lead became 10-6, when the Wallabies were again penalised at the breakdown – Taylor slotting the three-pointer.
Taylor had a chance to add three more a minute from the break, but from just under 50 metres out he hooked it past the left upright.
However, Ben Smith was over in the corner almost immediately. The decisive break was done by flank Steven Luatua, who carved the Aussie defence up and once the line was broken the All Black's clinical finishing created the overlap for Smith – who only had to jog a few metres for his second try.
Taylor's conversion attempt hit the upright, but the Kiwis took a commanding 15-6 lead into the break and the Wallaby heads were dropping.
The Aussies came back strongly after the break, starting with a good raid on the Kiwi line, but a turnover by Kieran Read not only ended the attack, it resulted in New Zealand quickly moving back into Wallaby territory.
It was Taylor who had the next scoring chance, slotting a penalty from just under 50 metres out after the Wallabies were again penalised at the breakdown – 18-6, with 26 minutes left on the clock.
Lealiifano managed to pull three back (9-18) just before the hour mark, as the Kiwis again deliberately went offside to stop a try from being scored. The home team was fortunate the referee did not reach for his pocket.
With the Wallaby scrum again being penalised, Taylor took the lead back out to 12 points – 21-9, with the game going into the final quarter. And Taylor made it 24-9, as the Wallabies were again penalised at the breakdown, with just on 10 minutes remaining.
Israel Folau gave the Wallabies some hope, when he intercepted near his 22 and sprinted over 70 metres for the Wallabies first five-pointer. Lealiifano added the extras and with seven minutes remaining they still needed to score twice – 16-24.
However, that all went out the window when the Wallabies were again penalised at the breakdown and Taylor made it 27-16.
Man of the match: Michael Hooper was involved in plenty of the Wallabies' play, with a crucial turnover in the first minute – after Will Genia's attempted clearance was charged down – setting the tone for another great day at the office. However, it was also spoiled by the number of penalties he conceded. Tom Taylor had a a near flawless Test debut, Israel Dagg showed up the Wallaby defence on a few occasions, Ben Smith again showed his finishing ability, Andrew Hore did his best work at the breakdown, while Richie McCaw was again a menace all over the park. Steven Luatua's ball carrying ability added great value – his line-break that set up Ben Smith's second try proving decisive, while his offloading skills were also something to be admired. However, our award goes to All Black No.8 Kieran Read, who was again New Zealand's most productive forward – with the penalty turnover he won early in the second half the epitome of why New Zealand is so much better than the rest.
Moment of the match: There were a number of bright moments, but our award goes to Ben Smith try right on the half-time hooter – it is what gave the All Blacks the breathing space that they needed and forced the Wallabies into a catch-up game. It came when Richie McCaw claimed a loose ball and the All Blacks, as they so often do, launched a raid late in the half. Ma'a Nonu got it away to Conrad Smith. It was worked out to Steven Luatua, who broke into the 22 and it was recycled quickly. Israel Dagg spun it out to Ben Smith, who went over in the corner for his second try.
Villain of the match: This one is easy. Ma'a Nonu put his hand up with his thuggish behaviour midway through the first half, a deliberate and ugly shoulder charge into the face of James Slipper – who required medical attention for some time. Nonu has a penchant and a long history of such thuggish off-the-ball behaviour. In fact he has been carded and banned a couple of times already this year.
For New Zealand:
Tries: B Smith 2
Pens: Taylor 5
Pens: Lealiifano 3
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charles Piutau.
Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)