Australia were soundly beaten by New Zealand in Game 2 of the 2014 Bledisloe Cup. To be more accurate, the Qantas Wallabies received an almighty thumping from the fearsome All Blacks.
New Zealand stomped on the Australians by the mammoth score of 51-20, thanks to a breathtaking display of rugged, attacking rugby that produced six tries. The team's Twitter account rightly displayed the final score with some swagger:
The key to the rout was the tremendous pace of play set by the All Blacks. That pace was obvious from the start during a frenetic first half.
New Zealand already led 23-6 at the end of the first half, with Julian Savea scoring the first try of the match after 31 minutes. The Wallabies had taken the lead right from the kick-off through a Kurtley Beale penalty, but Aaron Cruden leveled things inside of six minutes.
Cruden kept converting his penalties and he was given a penalty try after Australia failed to deal with a New Zealand pushover after 28 minutes, and when Savea scored three minutes later, the match appeared to be over.
In fact, it was only just beginning. 10 crazy minutes gave the All Blacks three consecutive tries in quick succession, courtesy of Kieran Read and captain Richie McCaw, who redeemed himself after an early stint in the sin bin with two scores.
Israel Folau and Michael Hooper reduced the deficit with two Australian tries, and Steven Luatua put the final score on the board in the last minute.
Play was scrappy but open. The scrappy side was made clear when New Zealand skipper McCaw was sent to the sin bin for only the second time in his career, following a cynical challenge, per ESPN Scrum:
That was McCaw's 2nd yellow card of his 129-cap All Blacks career..— ESPN Scrum.com (@espnscrum) August 23, 2014
McCaw's infraction was symptomatic of some early ill-discipline from the All Blacks. However, much as in Game 1, the Wallabies couldn't take advantage of their 10 minutes against depleted numbers.
By contrast, the All Blacks were merciless once Australia's Ron Simmons was dispatched to the sin bin. As an indicator of how overtly physical the early stages were, eight penalties were awarded before a quarter of the half had been played.
The open nature of the half meant the first scrum didn't occur until just after the 25-minute mark.
An open game suited the pace the All Blacks unleashed on Australia. The foundation of their fast-break approach was dominance of the offloads.
New Zealand had completed 15 successful offloads by half-time, compared with Australia's meagre two, per Ruckin Good stats. While the Wallabies often buckled under initial contact, the All Blacks routinely found ways to free the ball:
Halftime: New Zealand made X15 offloads, Australia 2 offloads #NZLvAUS— Ruckin Good Stats (@ruckingoodstats) August 23, 2014
A great example came early in the second half, following a line collapse by New Zealand. That allowed a clever Wallabies dropkick to pin the All Blacks deep.
However, it took just four passes and one offload for New Zealand to break across more half the length of the pitch. The speed of the All Blacks' transitions was just too much for Australia to cope with, something noted by Rugby World reporter Paul Williams:
All Blacks handling in the forwards is superb. Three short passes and they attack outside the 'hinge' - brilliant.— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) August 23, 2014
There was still time for a brave and laudable, albeit brief rally from the Wallabies. A pair of scores in quick succession didn't exactly promote dreams of a miracle comeback, but did at least salvage a little pride.
The highlight of the mini rally was a dazzling solo effort from flanker Michael Hooper:
Beautiful from Hooper! Smoked Smith and McCaw from a standing start.— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) August 23, 2014
Ultimately, though, it wasn't enough to overturn the extent of the damage New Zealand had inflicted earlier. The All Blacks capped things late on after Steven Luatua scored his first Test try following a late scrum after a line-out.
Did Ewen McKenzie make a mistake playing an open game against the All Blacks?
That meant Australia left Eden Park on the back of another heavy defeat, while the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup. The result is a painful reminder to the Wallabies that the All Blacks are still the dominant force in the Southern Hemisphere.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie may regret indulging in an open game and trying to match New Zealand's forward play. Australia now has to deal with the indignity of being outpaced and outfought by its fiercest rival.