New Zealand's All Blacks were crowned Bledisloe Cup champions for the 14th consecutive year, as they took an unassailable 2-0 series lead over Australia thanks to a 29-9 victory in Wellington, New Zealand, on Saturday.
The Wallabies came into the match off the back of a humiliating 42-8 defeat in Game 1 on August 20, and although they made a much better account of themselves this time around, they were simply outclassed by the lethal All Blacks.
Australia were looking to start the game on the front foot and silence the Westpac Stadium, yet they couldn’t find a way through the New Zealand rearguard.
After a few minutes of Wallabies pressure, the All Blacks kicked into gear, and it wasn’t long before they were on the scoreboard.
Aaron Smith’s weaving run took New Zealand into Australia’s final third before a smart pass from Owen Franks found Israel Dagg, who cut inside to dot down, 5-0.
You always got the sense that Australia’s ferocious start wasn’t going to last, and TV host Robert Marawa said Dagg’s try was the start of more "torture" for the visitors:
But Australia weren’t going down that easily. Bernard Foley kicked a couple of penalties to keep his side in the hunt, while Israel Folau was causing New Zealand plenty of problems.
The All Blacks then did what the Wallabies couldn’t—cross the try line.
Dagg again found himself on the end of a flowing New Zealand move, this time following smart play from the ever-impressive Beauden Barrett, 15-6.
Australia managed to cut the gap to six points at the halfway stage, and at that point, they were still very much in the contest.
The second half, however, was a totally different story.
Perhaps they’d run out of steam from their early efforts or maybe the All Blacks had just remembered how to pick them off. Either way, Australia’s chances of levelling up the series all but evaporated eight minutes into the second half.
Barrett was again at the heart of the move, as his beautiful cut-out pass found Brad Smith in heaps of space. Smith drew the challenge from Folau before offloading to Julian Savea, who powered across the line, 22-9.
Journalist Ian Stafford commented on Savea’s extreme strength:
Australia rarely threatened going forward in the second period, although they took a lot of breaking down defensively.
Sam Cane bullied his way under the posts with 20 minutes to go to add gloss to the result and secure the Bledisloe Cup for yet another year. The All Blacks official Twitter feed celebrated the victory and bonus point after the match:
The 29-9 final scoreline was nothing more than the All Blacks deserved. The Wallabies can be applauded for the resolute defending, but there was simply no attacking threat.
Any nation that plans to keep New Zealand from scoring a try all game isn’t going to have much success.
They’ll need to change their tactics yet again when the duo lock horns at Eden Park in Auckland in October, with vital Rugby Championship points at stake.
Take nothing away from New Zealand, though. Time and time again, they prove exactly why they’re the best in the business; the Wallabies are just their latest victims.
Following the match, New Zealand captain Kieran Read and Dan Coles commented on the competitive nature of the clash in Wellington, via All Blacks:
Australia's Stephen Moore, meanwhile, said his side showed a lot more ambition than in Game 1 and looked to building on it: