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Player ratings: New Zealand

OPINION: The first Bledisloe match of the year has graced our eyes with the All Blacks prevailing in Melbourne in front of 84 000 fans.

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Stoic defence from the Wallabies was let down by some yellow cards and the All Blacks were persistent in their attack, punishing any Wallaby lapses.

The All Blacks’ physicality wasn’t as convincing as it has been in previous weeks but the team fronted up when needed, proving they can win in more ways than just hanging onto a lead from a fast start.

There was another late burst of scoring from the Kiwi side which pushed the lead to a more convincing tally that will please Ian Foster and co after previous weeks’ performances had raised questions over the quality of the side’s bench.

The 38-7 victory sees the All Blacks win both The Rugby Championship and retain the Bledisloe Cup in a less controversial style than last year’s effort.

Ned Lester rates the All Blacks players:

1. Ethan de Groot – 8

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The prop had his hands full defending a rampaging Angus Bell who was out to prove a point early. With a lack of scrums to show his chops, de Groot settled for being the second-best defender in a black jersey, lending his shoulder to some heavy contact and clinging on around the ankles in multiple effort plays around the breakdown.

2. Codie Taylor – 8

The Australians were active in their contests at lineout but Taylor’s throwing was up to the challenge, providing his forwards with the platform to get their rolling maul humming early. Taylor is at his best when he’s opportunistic in his carries around the ruck and looked for those holes. Defensively, he was one of the All Blacks’ most active tacklers with a 100 percent success rate.

3. Tyrel Lomax – 7

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Lomax had limited opportunities to ply his trade at scrum time but won a penalty when he did pack down to start the second half. Eight tackles is a fair reflection of his participation on that side of the ball, not operating in the high-traffic areas but executing when the ball came his way. Quiet in the carry.

4. Brodie Retallick – 7

Retallick is a master in the subtle art of the ball carry, diving forwards into mini gaps to avoid the heavy contact and get his team on the front foot. After an active start with the ball, Retallick’s influence in that area was more subdued as the game wore on but his execution around the ruck remained world-class. 15 tackles on the night makes for an impressive tally but three misses equals a team-high.

5. Scott Barrett – 9.5

This guy had a game for the ages. He couldn’t have asked for a better start to the match, nailing Tate McDermott in a hard tackle that lay the ball on a platter for Shannon Frizell to score. The lock was consistently winning the collision throughout the game  on both sides of the ball and was unrelenting for the full 80 minutes.

6. Shannon Frizell – 7

The Wallabies’ physicality looked far more impressive this week and while the All Blacks’ work around the breakdown was strong in the first few phases of attack, beyond that they were caught out early. As the match wore on, Frizell’s involvement picked up and the All Blacks’ phase play looked far better for it.

7. Dalton Papali’i – 7.5

The breakdown was far less secure to start the match which didn’t reflect on Papali’i well given Sam Cane’s work in that area against South Africa. Papali’i’s skills came into their own as a facilitator down the blindside as the All Blacks chewed through the ground with some slick passing. The flanker’s physicality didn’t feature so often on defence in the first half as he was stationed wider than the first pod but his relentless wrestling in the rolling maul was impressive throughout.

The Blues skipper’s work on defence and around the breakdown picked up as the game wore on and he ended up leading his side in tackles made with 21.

8. Ardie Savea (captain) – 8

In the face of a big Australian loose forward trio, Savea’s stature looked undersized but that has never stopped the inspirational captain before and he again found ways to get his legs pumping in contact and charge upfield for his side.

After 150 first-half tackles, the Wallabies started to falter ever so slightly to end the period and Savea’s side was rewarded for the persistence shown. The captain has an incredible ability to win turnovers at the breakdown when his side’s back is against the line and did it again tonight.

9. Aaron Smith – 8

A very rare bad pass disrupted the All Blacks’ fast start but a quick-thinking kick just a minute later made amends and led to the opening try of the game. Under pressure early from the Wallabies’ physicality around the ruck, the veteran remained composed and distributed at his usual golden standard. A few snipes around the ruck were each unsuccessful.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 7.5

Mo’unga’s boot didn’t feature like it did against South Africa and the All Blacks attack wasn’t as ruthless in the opening stages as it was in previous matches. Once a better platform was set up front, Mo’unga’s distribution skills got a chance to shine and a hot-potato pass to Will Jordan put his side up 12 at the halftime break.

The game opened up late and Mo’unga pulled strings to make the most of the space. Outside of one disallowed try, his runs threatened without clearing the line.

11. Mark Telea – 9.5

Telea was introduced to Marika Koroibete rather abruptly as the Australian wing read the All Blacks backline move like a book and buried his fellow wing. The Super Rugby standout made good decisions in each of his carries, making the most out of his touches in traffic and spotting an opportunity to score with a quick tap.

The Wallaby backs looked to rip the ball away from Telea in the tackle and the winger adapted by wrapping the ball up with both arms in contact. A superb run off the lineout saw him take on eight Wallabies and make huge metres in the most unlikely of circumstances, as is becoming his trademark. Safe hands under the high ball and strong on the defensive side of the ball throughout. Very efficient in his cleanouts around the breakdown.

12. Jordie Barrett – 9

Barrett racked up 10 tackles in the first half alone to lead the backline defensively. On attack, his physical runs were unrelenting. His defence was physical again in the second period but didn’t feature as heavily.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7.5

There’s fast twitch athletes and then there’s Rieko Ioane. The centre was back to his miraculous try-saving tricks early. There weren’t many opportunities for the speedster to stretch his legs but his decision-making was good and he added some crisp distribution when it was required. A number of runs off the restart saw Rieko take all metres on offer.

14. Will Jordan – 8.5

The Jordan magic found ways to influence the match, working off Beauden Barrett in chasing kicks and finishing the All Blacks’ most impressive phase play effort just before halftime. The combination with his fellow wing Mark Telea proved to have great chemistry and New Zealand profited from it. Jordan’s distribution skills were special on the night, setting up scoring opportunities at will.

15. Beauden Barrett – 7

Barrett’s vision found holes behind the Wallabies line and Will Jordan was always on hand for a handy chase. That vision in addition to Barrett’s role as a defensive coordinator with his communication is what has secured his role as the All Blacks’ top-choice fullback and while he wasn’t as influential as in previous weeks, he fulfilled his role.

Replacements:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 8.5

Taukei’aho didn’t need an invitation to get involved in the game once on the field, carrying time and time again while getting his legs pumping through contact.

17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7

18. Nepo Laulala – 7

19. Samuel Whitelock – 7.5

20. Luke Jacobson – 8

21. Cam Roigard – 8

There was a shift in tempo when the debutant came onto the park and the All Blacks quickly profited on the scoreboard.

22. Anton Lienert-Brown – 8.5

There was no shortage of intent from Lienert-Brown, who hit the Wallabies line like a rocket with every touch.

23. Caleb Clarke – 8

By Ned Lester, Rugbypass

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