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All Blacks thump Wallabies, lock Bledisloe Cup away for 19th straight year

By Alex McLeod

Trending on RugbyPass

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The All Blacks have opened the 2021 Rugby Championship with a second successive victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park to lock the Bledisloe Cup away for a 19th straight year.

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Under pressure to produce a more polished performance after their sloppy and ill-disciplined start and end to last week’s victory over the Australians at the same ground, the Kiwis proved far too classy for the Wallabies, who had their moments throughout the encounter, in a 57-22 victory.

The opening 10 minutes of the contest proved to be far more entertaining than last week, as both sides scored early on.

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Wallabies captain Michael Hooper speaks to media

All Blacks midfielder Rieko Ioane was the first to go over when he picked off a Noah Lolesio skip pass well inside his own half and boosted downfield to score in the fourth minute, but the Wallabies hit back via Andrew Kellaway just four minutes later.

Kellaway had drawn many headlines leading into the clash for his claim that the All Blacks’ “aura has worn off a bit”, and the rookie wing did his best to back up his talk by walking the walk.

Damian McKenzie was the main victim of Kellaway’s early exploits, as the four-test Australian hammered him in one of the game’s opening sequences before the diminutive All Blacks fullback slipped off a tackle far too easily to allow Kellaway to waltz in for his second try in as many weeks.

Kellaway’s try came as the Wallabies built plenty of continuity with ball in hand to put the hosts under pressure, but they couldn’t sustain it as the All Blacks were next to add to the scoreboard.

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Wallabies No 8 Rob Valetini was caught in no man’s land when Ioane fired a pass out wide to his brother Akira, who charged up the left edge before fooling Kellaway with a dummy to enter Australian territory.

A draw and pass to McKenzie was followed by a quick ball out to the supporting Brodie Retallick, who strolled on in for his side’s second try.

After regathering themselves, the Wallabies mounted a lot of pressure on the New Zealanders, who were forced into conceding penalty after penalty, but Australia still couldn’t crack the defensive line, so instead opted for a penalty goal, which Lolesio duly slotted to cut the lead to six points after half an hour.

The All Blacks hit back immediately, though, as Ardie Savea crashed over from short range after a wayward Lolesio bomb kick from inside his 22 went straight down the throat of Richie Mo’unga, who instigated the counter-attack that Savea scored from.

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A lovely sniping run by Wallabies halfback Tate McDermott from the base of a scrum five metres shy of the opposition line ensured the Australians only trailed by six points at the half-time break, but the floodgates opened as the second half kicked-off.

Not even a yellow card to Savea in the 42nd minute could stop the All Blacks from running riot, as a heads up play by halfback Aaron Smith caught the Wallabies napping five minutes into Savea’s sin binning.

Scooting through a gap in the Australian defensive line close to the breakdown, the 101-test veteran then fed the ball to the Codie Taylor on his inside shoulder to allow the hooker to run in under the posts.

Just after Savea returned to the fray, McKenzie proved his worth as a long-range goal-kicker, as he just landed a penalty from 58 metres to push the All Blacks beyond a double converted try lead.

With that sense of security, the All Blacks seemed to afford themselves more freedom in their play, as Sevu Reece picked off another Wallabies pass, this time from Matt To’omua, to scamper in for a try right after McKenzie’s penalty.

From there, it was virtually all one way traffic: Taylor snuck over for a second try from close range in the 61st minute, Will Jordan scored his 10th try in just his sixth test after Savea barged his way up the middle of the park four minutes later, and David Havili slid over three minutes into injury time.

That was enough to notch the half century mark for the Kiwis, although the Wallabies did cross for a consolation try as Kellaway, among Australia’s best players, dotted down for his second try of the match.

Joining Kellaway as one of the best in green and gold jerseys was fellow wing Marika Koroibete, who returned to the team after a one-match stand down for a late night drinking session, but neither could deny the All Blacks an emphatic runaway victory.

As was the case last week, lineout throwing, among other things, proved to be costly for Dave Rennie’s side, and much improvements will need to be made if they are to avoid a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep in Perth in two weeks’ time.

For Ian Foster’s side, the Ioane brothers, Savea and Smith all stood out in a performance that should go some way to silencing their critics after last week’s outing.

The return of TJ Perenara off the bench will also be pleasing for Foster and his assistants as they prepare to embark on what could be a lengthy stay away from home amid Covid-19 and travel restriction uncertainty.

With the Bledisloe Cup safely stowed away, the All Blacks have also moved to the summit of the Rugby Championship table, and the pressure will now go on the Springboks to match New Zealand’s efforts against Los Pumas in Port Elizabeth overnight.

All Blacks 57 (Tries to Rieko Ioane, Brodie Retallick, Ardie Savea, Codie Taylor (2), Sevu Reece, Will Jordan and David Havili; 5 conversions to Richie Mo’unga, 2 conversions to Beauden Barrett, penalty to Damian McKenzie)

Wallabies 22 (Tries to Andrew Kellaway (2) and Tate McDermott; 2 conversions and penalty to Noah Lolesio)

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All Blacks thump Wallabies, lock Bledisloe Cup away for 19th straight year

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