The All Blacks have won the Bledisloe Cup for the tenth year in a row with a 22-0 shutout of Australia. It was a case of men against boys in the end as the All Blacks completely dominated the second half and ensured the Wallabies weren’t able to fire a shot.
Despite this, it was a much improved Wallabies outfit on display in the first half, bringing physicality to the game and showing far more commitment at contact areas. They certainly had the better of the first 20 as they maintained large stakes in possession.
The All Blacks had little chance to attack.
As the game progressed, the All Blacks began to gain dominance. Three penalties in the second quarter of the game ensured it was the home side that went to the break in the lead, holding a 9-0 advantage over their foe.
The second half saw a much more invigorated All Blacks outfit gain complete dominance of the contact areas, pushing the Wallabies off their ball and enabling the backline to operate efficiently. While they only managed one try, they completely shut the Wallabies out of the game and ensured they never really looked like threatening.
Defensively, the All Blacks were outstanding, tackling well and showing great discipline to avoid giving away penalties. To hold any team to zero points is a great achievement, but even more so a team possessing the attacking threats of Australia. In Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane and Kurtley Beale the Wallabies possess some of the world’s most dangerous players, but none featured as the All Blacks prevented them getting any front foot ball to run.
It was, however, still a far from perfect performance from the men in black, particularly in the first half where there was far too much reckless play. Too many fifty-fifty balls were thrown, particularly the second pass when looking to use forward runners. The result was a high error rate and disjointed play which prevented them from applying the pressure they would have wanted.
The lineout struggled early on too, with far too much ball being lost in this department. This improved as the game went on and seemed to have fixed itself by the end of the game. However this is an area where the All Blacks will need to be strong against South Africa and Argentina, both of whom have shown good lineouts in their opening two fixtures.
The loose forward trio was prominent, working well together and displaying high work rates all night. Kieran Read was the stand out who seemed to go to another level in the second half, pulling off a handful of timely plays. Liam Messam was very good as well, running well and tackling strongly, finally showing he has what it takes to play at this level. Meanwhile, Richie McCaw was once again strong, whilst Victor Vito made a good impact when introduced.
It was a tough battle early on in the tight, but eventually the front five showed their superiority and wore down the Australian pack. The scrum was inconsistent at times, but on a handful of occasions completely dominated their opponents. Brodie Retallick made a big impact once brought on, and would be unlucky not to regain a starting role for the next game in two weeks time.
The backs threatened the whole game, but only crossed once due to some very good defence from the Wallabies.
Aaron Smith has made a big difference since his arrival in the team, providing such quick service and giving his backline good ball to work with. He is beginning to show more strings to his bow too, running well and proving an option to kick as well.
Outside him, Daniel Carter was once again very good, whilst the midfield of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu looked far more lively than a week earlier. The back three continues to look dangerous whenever they touch the ball, with Israel Dagg especially putting on another clinic and showing he is well and truly back to his best.
The competition will take a break next weekend, returning the week after with the All Blacks taking on Argentina in Wellington and the Wallabies taking on the Springboks in Perth.