All Blacks burst the McKenzie bubble
All Blacks burst the McKenzie bubbleSHARE
New Zealand burst the Ewen McKenzie bubble as they handed Australia a 47-29 drubbing in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday.
The game, which doubled up as a Bledisloe Cup encounter, produced eight fine tries – six of those going to the victorious All Blacks.
There was hope that Ewen McKenzie's arrival – as head coach in place of Robbie Deans – would end the long-suffering Wallabies' miserable run against their trans-Tasman rivals.
However, a 25-19 half-time lead became a 47-22 lead with a three-try rally by the Kiwis in a 20-minute period and killed off any hopes of an Aussie revival.
It also gifted New Zealand their 100th Test win over Australia.
It was an open game, with defence not always at a premium – the missed tackle count on both sides going into double figures, the All Blacks slightly worse off.
However, it was the Kiwis' clinical attacking form and their willingness to concede penalties to snuff out dangerous Wallaby raids that were the hallmarks of the game.
As was expected, the scrums were an issue in the early stages – till the referee took the two scrumhalves aside and had a chat to them about skew feeds. That settled the issue and even allowed the Wallabies to win a second-half penalty at the set piece, as they looked to assert themselves on the All Blacks.
In the line-outs Australia also had a slight edge, while the breakdown was an arm-wrestle – with the contest between Michael Hooper and Richie McCaw worth the price of an entry ticket!
New Zealand got off to the perfect start. Aaron Cruden putting the heat on with a burst down the right touchline, then forcing a line-out. From there it was a maul, a few phases and eventually slick handling that put Ben Smith over in the right corner. Cruden added the extras – 7-0 after just four minutes.
From the restart Julian Savea went offside after an areal bomb, but Jesse Mogg was wide with the penalty shot at goal.
When Kieran read was penalised minutes later for playing a man in the air, Christian Leali'ifano stepped up to narrow the gap to 3-7. And soon afterwards Richie McCaw was pinged at a ruck, allowed Leali'ifano to make it a one-point game – 6-7
Cruden stretched the lead out to four again towards the end of the first quarter, after McCaw won a breakdown penalty.
The breakdown penalties continued to mount and Samuel Whitelock was the next to be pinged and Leali'ifano made it 9-10. And when McCaw was penalised at another ruck, Leali'ifano gave Australia the lead for the first time in the 28th minute – 12-10.
However, from the restart Cruden charged down Leali'ifano's attempted clearance, followed up and score his team's second try. Cruden added the extras – 17-12.
McCaw was next to score – the All Blacks putting on display their efficiency in making teams pay for mistakes. Jesse Mogg failed to find touch and from there the All Blacks were at their most efficient best, with runners all over the place as they took it through the phases till the Wallaby defence cracked. Cruden's conversion attempt was not on target, but at 22-12 it was a commanding lead.
However, a 60-metre try by Will Genia got the Wallabies back into the game minutes from the half-time break = coming after a line-out went awry, Michael Hooper scooped up the ball and off-loaded to Genia, who raced clear of the cover. Leali'ifano's conversion made it 19-22.
Cruden had the last say in the half, a penalty for offside, making it 25-19 at the break.
Early in the second half Sam Whitelock was penalised at a breakdown 10 metres from his line, as he opted to concede three points rather than seven. Leali'ifano narrowed the gap to 22-25.
However, Conrad Smith got the bonus-point try in the 52nd minute – as the Kiwis injected pace into their attack and showed just how clinical they can be. Cruden's conversion made it a 10-point game – 32-22.
And minutes later it became a 15-point lead, when Ben Smith got his double by racing over in the right corner. This time Cruden hit the upright – 37-22.
With just under 15 minutes left on the clock Cruden made it 40-22, when the Aussies were penalised at the breakdown again.
Ben Smith got his hat-trick in the 72nd minute, when he picked up a stray ball at a scrum and sprinted about 30 metres for the score. Cruden's conversion made it 47-22.
All that remained was to see if New Zealand could hit the 50-point mark, or whether Australia would get a consolation score.
As it turned out, lock Sam Whitelock was yellow carded for a professional foul and James O'Connor got a try after the hooter. Leali'ifano kept his 100 percent kicking record intact – the final score being 47-29.
Man of the match: James Horwill put his body on the line for his country and Quade Cooper made a brave attempt to inject some pace into the Aussie attack when he came on in the second half. Michael Hooper went head-to-head with Richie McCaw at the breakdown and had the better of the early exchanges, but as was to be expected McCaw was not giving an inch and got a few turnovers back as both openside flanks pushed the envelope. The flyhalf battle, between Aaron Cruden and Christian Leali'ifano was also intriguing, shaded by Cruden. All Black wings Ben Smith and Julian Savea were always dangerous with ball in hand, while Aaron Smith asked plenty of questions. Of course you would look to Ben Smith, given he scored a hat-trick. However, our award goes to veteran All Black centre Conrad Smith. His amazing hands and feet are always such a pleasure to watch, but it was on defence where he did his most effective work.
Moment of the match: You could look at the Will Genia try just before half-time – when a line-out went awry and Michael Hooper scooped up the ball and set Genia free saw the Wallabies get back into the game. However, our award goes to the Conrad Smith try in the 52nd minute – it was the epitome of New Zealand's ability to put space between themselves and the opposition every time they appear to get back into the contest. It broke the back of the Aussie resistance.
Villain of the match: No villains here.
Tries: Genia, O'Connor
Cons: Leali'ifano 2
Pens: Leali'ifano 5
For New Zealand:
Tries: B Smith 3, Cruden, McCaw, C Smith
Cons: Cruden 4
Pens: Cruden 3
Yellow card: Sam Whitelock (New Zealand, 79 – professional foul, kicking the ball away)
Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)