SYDNEY, Australia, Aug 19 – The world champion All Blacks rebounded spectacularly to down the Wallabies 54-34 and continue the gloom in Australian rugby in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday.
It was New Zealand’s biggest score over Australia, eclipsing their 51-20 win in Auckland three years ago.
While the Wallabies added some respectability to the score after trailing 54-6 with four tries in the final half-hour, the contest was finished after the first 50 minutes.
“The first 50 minutes was probably as good rugby as you will see, the last 30 minutes was probably some of the ugliest rugby,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
“I think we got a little seduced by the scoreboard and went away from the fundamentals of what we wanted to do, but I think it’s about concentrating on what we did really well and that first 50 minutes was pretty special.”
New Zealand’s inability to put away the British and Irish Lions in their drawn home series last month had raised doubts over the All Blacks’ era of dominance.
– Threadbare defence –
But they roared back in their inimitable fashion, posting an eight tries to four victory.
While the All Blacks stamped their mark early on the Test match it was another blow to Australian rugby following a woeful Super Rugby season, where Australian teams lost all their 26 games to New Zealand opposition.
Another low was that the game was played before the smallest Bledisloe Cup Test crowd at Sydney’s Olympic stadium of 54,846.
“It was pretty plain to see that our defence wasn’t good enough at all,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika told reporters.
“The adherence to the way we wanted to defend plus the tackling in itself has got to be better. That first part of the game is not at the level that you can be at all.”
The All Blacks demoralised the tackle-shy Wallabies with a six-try opening half blitz to have the game wrapped up by half-time after a 40-6 landslide.
They extended that to 54-6 after 48 minutes before the Australians scored four tries of their own to remove the threat of their heaviest losing margin of 37 points (43-6) against New Zealand in 1996.
The All Blacks look set to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 15th consecutive year in Dunedin next weekend.
Blindside flanker Liam Squire scored New Zealand’s first try in the 10th minute and went in again when left-winger Rieko Ioane got on the outside of floundering Israel Folau to score.
Ioane was over again minutes later when Michael Hooper’s pass went astray and Ryan Crotty sent Ioane racing away.
The Wallabies defence was shredded again and Crotty scored an easy try near the posts after Beauden Barrett handled twice in the lead-up.
The New Zealanders claimed their fifth try just before half-time when Sonny Bill Williams crashed over.
They made a mockery of the threadbare Australian defence with a sixth try off a rehearsed training ground move for centre Crotty’s try double off a scrum win deep inside Wallabies’ territory.
Barrett’s conversion gave the All Blacks an unassailable lead at half-time.
It got no better with fullback Damian McKenzie scoring his first Test try three minutes after the resumption, and winger Ben Smith’s try hoisted the All Blacks to their highest ever score against the Wallabies with still 30 minutes left in an embarrassingly one-sided Test.
Debutant winger Curtis Rona finally crossed for Australia’s first try after 52 minutes and further tries to replacement Tevita Kuridrani and a runaway effort from Kurtley Beale gave the home supporters something to cheer about.
Folau went over for Australia’s fourth try 11 minutes from the end.
The All Blacks continue their domination of the Wallabies, losing only three of their last 30 encounters.