Almost 118 years to the day since their maiden meeting on a rugby pitch, New Zealandblew Australia away in record fashion in Auckland on Saturday to keep hold of the Bledisloe Cup.
The All Blacks failed to flatter themselves in a series-opening win at Eden Park a week ago, but the more recent 57-22 victory is the biggest points tally they’ve ever inflicted on the Wallabies.
It was a result that left coach Ian Foster beaming after the full-time whistle, not least because it’s sure to boost confidence that he’s the man capable of taking the team forward.
An early lead in the 2021 Rugby Championship table is just the start of their rewards, with New Zealand also retaining the Bledisloe title they’ve held since 2003.
Foster, 56, told reporters of his pleasure with the performance post-match: “We wanted to respond. The reason we had to respond is we knew the Aussies would lift. They played a combative, physical game in that first 40 and you could see they wanted to take us on up front.
“It was a good old ding-dong Test match in that first period. But we stuck to our plan, even when we lost a couple of things early. We didn’t panic, or go away from what we wanted to do.
“What was exciting was when we got the opportunity, particularly with the ball, the group (Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane and Codie Taylor) were quite lethal at latching into the space in front of them. Plum (assistant coach John Plumtree) is doing a lot of work in that ball-carrying space and breakdown space and today we reaped some rewards out of that.”
Hooker Taylor crossed over twice for the hosts, while fellow pack members Savea and Brodie Retallick also got on the score sheet.
They were complemented by tries from Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane and a last-second score from David Havili, who underscored a groundbreaking display from the hosts.
Far improved from their 33-25 win in the same fixture one week prior, the All Blacks stepped things up a notch after starting and finishing poorly in that first Test.
“It was a really good performance – one we are proud of,” Foster added.
“I was really impressed with the way the boys approached the test match. In many ways it was a typical All Blacks-Australia test, very physical very abrasive, and again it had swings of momentum.
“But the thing I was most proud of is we didn’t get stuck in the moments for too long. Last week we got stuck in a few moments and couldn’t quite get out of them, whereas this week we did, and came out the other side and played some good rugby once we got things sorted.”
The Wallabies, meanwhile, left a lot to be desired from their efforts, although try-scorers Andrew Kellaway (two) and Tate McDermott at least provided sparks of encouragement.
Improving defence will be the priority for Dave Rennie’s men before they host the All Blacks in Perth in a fortnight’s time, having beaten their bitter rivals last time they met in Australia.
Sir John Kirwan appeared on Sky Sport NZ’s coverage of the game and blasted the team after Wallabies fly-half Noah Lolesio threw an interception try for the second week in a row.
Matt To’omua also gave up an interception try to Reece, incensing Kiwi legend Kirwan: “They made that mistake again twice. They haven’t adjusted.
“They’re throwing moneyballs because they think they can see the space and it’s not coming off…they are letting themselves down.”
Australia were also guilty of kicking the ball away too easily given valuable possession was always going to be hard to come by in Auckland.
Another member of the New Zealand broadcast team, Andrew Mehrtens, added: “When you’re on a front-foot roll you put in a little kick to regain it, a grubber kick to regather. They’ve just kicked the ball away too often tonight.”
Rennie and his side will target improvements before the teams reconvene at Optus Stadium on August 28—the worrying thing is their opponents will surely be seeking to evolve as well.
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