By Daniel Cullinane
It was a feisty build-up to this second test between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park. All the talk had been about the controversial decision for time-wasting that ended the Wallabies chances of winning the Bledisloe cup in the first test. The reckless action of lock Darcy Swain, and the claims that the Wallabies had disrespected the haka. The potential for a heated contest was high.
Australia got the game under way and quickly put pressure on New Zealand with a break by Jed Holloway, who charged into the All Blacks 22. He quickly undid his good work by dumping Dalton Papali’i at the ruck. He was yellow-carded, and so began the rollercoaster of indiscipline that appears to be blighting the Australian game.
New Zealand on the other hand, were lifting their game and showing early dominance. A strong scrum saw All Black number 8 Ardie Savea break. The ball went wide to Beauden Barrett, who turned on the after burners and then chipped, to pile the pressure on the Wallabies. The All Blacks were awarded a 5 metre scrum but Savea was unable to control the ball at the base. Australia cleared their lines.
Then a moment of magic from Wallaby wing, Marika Koroibete. A break down the midfield followed by a chip, catch, and grubber to put huge pressure on the New Zealanders in their own 22. Again, the Wallabies infringed, leading to a kickable penalty for Richie Mo’unga. 3-0 to the All Blacks. Wing; Will Jordan soon built on the score with a fine break and subsequent try. Mo’unga made it 10-0.
Australia was creaking badly and the pressure was clearly affecting their thinking. Tom Wright confirmed this by taking a quick tap penalty from an eminently kickable position and an almost guaranteed 3 points. Another penalty by Wallaby skipper James Slipper led to a New Zealand lineout in the Aussie 22. Afterwards, a powerful maul forced a penalty try and yet another yellow card for Australia. David Porecki left the field for 10 minutes. Half time arrived and the score was 17-0; New Zealand were flying.
In the second half, the All Blacks carried on where they had left off. Within 2 minutes, they scored through captain Sam Whitelock. Mo’unga converted to make the score 24-0. The All Blacks had by now recognised that the Wallabies couldn’t live with them in the set piece. Again, they went to the lineout. Again they formed a driving maul and powered over the Aussie line. This time it was Codie Taylor on the scoresheet. The conversion was missed. 32-0 to the All Blacks.
At last the Australians fired a shot when Nick Frost charged down a New Zealand kick in their 22. Pete Samu collected the ball and surged forwards. Support came from replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a, who charged over the line. Bernard Foley kicked the conversion; Points on the boards. 32-7.
The All Blacks responded almost immediately with another pushover try from the lineout. Samisoni Taukei’aho the scorer.
In the 76th minute, Richie Mo’unga had another shot at goal to make it 40-7. The Aussies would have the final word in a very one-sided game when a determined Jordan Petaia forced his way over. The try was converted. The final score 40-14 to New Zealand. It was a dominant display from the men in black. Probably their best performance in the tournament.
The All Blacks were sharp, their set piece was outstanding, and they were clinical when they needed to be. Australia has some big issues to deal with. Their discipline has been woeful since their test series defeat to England back in July. They have spent large parts of the Rugby Championship playing with less than fifteen men on the field. Going forward, the lack of leadership is clearly a problem they must address if they are to be successful.