The All Blacks have firmly entrenched themselves as the team to beat heading into the Rugby World Cup next month, with a 30-14 win over nearest rivals, Australia at Eden Park last night. The win ensures that they will retain the Bledisloe Cup for another year.
The game was won in the first 20 minutes, as the All Blacks completely blew the Wallabies off the park, bringing a physicality to their game that is rarely seen by any team. They tackled ferociously and looked dangerous every time they had the ball, as the Australians did everything they could to hold on as much as possible.
But with the All Blacks in such rampant form, it was always going to be hard to hold them out and consequently the Wallabies leaked two tries, finding themselves trailing 17-0 at halftime. To go with this, they simply couldn't find a way through the solid black wall that was the All Blacks defence, which tackled relentlessly, giving the Wallabies nothing despite being found deep in their half for most of the latter portions of the first half.
The game was effectively won by this stage and the All Blacks weren't as dominant as they came back out for the second spell. This can often be the case when changes are made, and the 17 point buffer they had gave them the ability to do this.
The game was won and lost in the No. 10 jersey. Daniel Carter was the best player on the park and delivered arguably his best performance since his legendary game in the second test against the Lions in 2005. In contrast, Quade Cooper was terrible.
Defensively, there has never been a better performance by a first-five eighth, as Carter made tackle after tackle. His kicking was immaculate, while he was also a dangerous runner. As always, he ran the backline well, which was key.
Quade Cooper on the other hand panicked. His toughness has long been questioned and again was exposed last night, as the All Blacks bullied the Wallaby 10. It was almost as if he was scared to run into the monstrous defence, and instead threw passes that were never on.
The most obvious of these came in the second half, where after covering a kick back on his own line he flicked a pass to no one when looking up and seeing two All Black defenders coming. The fact that a try wasn't scored was more luck than management. Because of this, he wasn't running the backline well and it was largely being left up to Will Genia to organise the troops.
It must be questioned whether Cooper is indeed the best man for the job in the Wallaby No. 10 jersey.
The midfield combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith was also very good for the All Blacks. These two are flourishing in a better team environment, showing the extent to which the Hurricanes environment was affecting the play of their stars.
Nonu got through an unbelievable amount of work, looking dangerous every time he touched the ball. Smith was outstanding defensively and performed his creator role well as always. These two must surely have confirmed their spot as the starting midfield combination.
The forward pack as a whole worked well together around the field, but the set piece does need some attention. The lineouts improved as the game went on, while some needless penalties were conceded at scrum time.
The main negative came in the lack of urgency at times around the breakdown. Too often in the second half did the All Blacks take too long organising their attack, allowing the Wallabies to organise their defence. They would then proceed use one off runner to gain momentum. While this is alright, it was getting far too predictable and happening far too slowly.
It needed to be mixed up with pick and go's directly from the base. And it wouldn't hurt to look to attack through the midfield more, as that was where the Wallabies looked most susceptible.
In general the All Blacks will be happy with how they performed. But their were certainly phases of the game where they could have been better and they will look to address these in the coming weeks.
The Tri-Nations now heads to South Africa, where the Springboks will take on the Wallabies and the All Blacks in consecutive weeks.