Player ratings: The run continues
OPINION: Test rugby returned to Eden Park for the first time in 2021 when the All Blacks hosted the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe Cup game of the season.
It was a sluggish start from both sides with plenty of errors in the first half, but both teams found some form in the second stanza and were it not for some wayward kicking in a stiff breeze from Noah Lolesio, the game could have gone down to the wire.
In the end, the home side prevailed 33-25.
Tom Vinicombe rates the New Zealand players!
1. George Bower – 6/10
Copped one scrum penalty in the second half. Physical in the carry and put in a couple of nice hits on defence. The more dynamic of New Zealand’s starting props. Off in 52nd minute.
2. Codie Taylor – 7
Delivered the ball safely into the lineout and popped up in the midfield from time to time but wasn’t as dynamic as everyone has become accustomed to. Safe, but not spectacular. Penalised once at the breakdown for sealing off the ball. Off in 63rd minute.
3. Nepo Laulala – 6.5
Made one nice early hit on Tom Banks as the Wallabies fullback tried to scamper around the All Blacks tight forwards. Traded scrum penalties with James Slipper in the early exchanges. Rarely saw the ball on attack. Off in 65th minute.
4. Brodie Retallick – 6
Did some great work on both attack and defence, showing his typical physicality, but also made some bad errors. Copped four penalties through the match – all four different things. Did some hard graft in the build-up to David Havili’s try and again before his Chiefs teammate Damian McKenzie touched down. Still rusty overall, but there are signs that the beast could be on his way back. Off in 65th minute.
5. Sam Whitelock – 7
Disrupted the Wallabies lineout well in the early stages. Frustrated the Wallabies at the set-piece and in the breakdown. A game typical of an All Blacks captain – did nothing showy, but did everything that was needed of him. Scored one nice penalty at the breakdown.
6. Akira Ioane – 7
Popped up in the outer channels but wasn’t able to make in-roads. Carted up the ball well in the second stanza – particularly when he was utilised in the midfield. The busiest All Blacks forward on attack, regularly putting his hand up to throw himself into the tranches. A strong overall performance. Off in 68th minute.
7. Dalton Papalii – 7
Made a nice tackle on a rampaging Harry Wilson. Comfortably the busiest All Black on defence, racking up 12 tackles. Wasn’t able to cause too many problems at the breakdown but still a solid outing in his first start against a tier-one team.
8. Ardie Savea – 6.5
Knocked on a Rieko Ioane tip-pass when the breakaway was on. Penalised at the breakdown in the second half. Considerably more dynamic in the second half when the All Blacks started to build dominance and eventually got his leg-drive going.
9. Aaron Smith – 7
Not the halfback centurion’s most dominant performance, with opposite Tate McDermott looking more threatening with ball in hand. One excellent skip pass out left saw David Havili dot down for a try and then sent the ball into the same corner not long after for Damian McKenzie’s try. Off in 72nd minute.
10. Richie Mo’unga – 8.5
The All Blacks’ best. Looked dangerous when he challenged the line. Dipped inside a Harry Wilson tackle early then threw a nice ball out the back to Akira Ioane on the right wing but really came to life in the second quarter. Made the half break from just outside the All Blacks goal line that sparked the scintillating no-try. After that was snuffed out, he did the whole thing himself by sniffling an intercept and running 80 metres to score under the posts. Major blemish was rushing up to take the Wallabies over-throw but missed the ball – and left Hunter Paisami with an easy run down the middle which created the Wallabies’ first try. Off in 65th minute.
11. Rieko Ioane – 7.5
Showed off his slick pace by bolting around the outside of Banks and nabbing a half-break with his first carry of the match. Looked dangerous with his second carry too and then made a great break off Richie Mo’unga’s goal-line breakout. Made some nice reads on defence.
12. David Havili – 7
The primary ball-runner for the All Blacks in the early stages. Looked willing but lost the ball the second time he carted it up the field. Tackled strongly throughout, putting that extra size he’s added to his frame this year to work. Caught offside and almost handed the Wallabies their first points of the match but Noah Lolesio couldn’t convert. Scored the All Blacks’ third try of the match with some nice footwork out wide.
13. Anton Lienert-Brown – 7.5
Sucked in on the Andrew Kellaway break – but it came to nothing after the Wallabies wing kicked the ball ahead. Great one on one tackle on Kellaway early in the second half to snuff out a Wallabies attack. Ripped the ball off Hunter Paisami when the Wallabies were on attack inside the 22 – but then knocked the ball on shortly after. Nice goal-line defence. Solid on attack and defence.
14. Sevu Reece – 6
Scored one of his less glamourous tries, diving over from close-quarters. Misjudged one high ball and wasn’t hugely prominent throughout. Off in 63rd minute.
15. Damian McKenzie – 7
Popped in at first receiver as expected and was safe under the high ball but couldn’t find any gaps in the Wallabies’ defence. Still beat plenty of defenders, but didn’t necessarily make much ground. A smart quick tap earned the All Black an extra 10 metres from one penalty. Made a great call entering the final quarter to switch the play left on the attack and dived over the line from Smith’s pass.
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 6
On in 63rd minute. Was a late call-up to the 23 but looked at home coming off the bench.
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 6.5
On in 52nd minute. Got the better of Taniela Tupou in their first scrum battle.
18. Angus Ta’avao – 6
On in 65th minute. Few opportunities to make an impact with the set-piece battle dissolving late in the game.
19. Patrick Tuipulotu – 6.5
On in 65th minute. Notched up seven tackles.
20. Luke Jacobson – 7
On in 68th minute. Made one sizeable carry late in the game and matched Tuipulotu’s effort on defence.
21. Brad Weber – N/A
On in 72nd minute.
22. Beauden Barrett – N/A
On in 65th minute. Rarely got his hands on the ball as the Wallabies dominated the possession.
23. Jordie Barrett – N/A
On in 63rd minute. Slotted onto the right wing but rarely sighted the ball.