The All Blacks’ frustration at last week’s loss to the Wallabies in Sydney spilled over in the return match in Auckland on Saturday where they thrashed the Australians 41-13.
It was a telling statement in their last match before heading to England to defend the World Cup.
The New Zealanders’ pride was wounded when they lost the Rugby Championship decider 27-19 a week ago, and they were determined to make amends and retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 13th consecutive year.
The world champions led 13-6 at half-time and then stunned the Wallabies with three tries in a seven-minute burst at the start of the second spell, which began with a penalty try following a head-high tackle by Quade Cooper.
From a sloppy performance last week, where Australia commanded the breakdown, the All Blacks took control up front which produced a flow of front-foot ball allowing Dan Carter to dictate terms.
“They came out and put us under a bit of pressure territory wise and possession wise and we stuck together and got turnovers when we needed to get them and slowly put our impression on the game,” coach Steve Hansen said.
“It’s a lot easier to play rugby if you’re going forward. It’s probably the key principle about the game.”
But Hansen said it had taken a loss to fire up the All Blacks this time, and they could not afford to rely on that at the World Cup, where there will be no second chance.
“There was plenty of edge there and so we’ve got to be able to capture that and do it when we’re winning as well,” he said.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika felt his side was in with a chance in the first half, but in “that little period after halftime we made some poor decisions”.
The All Blacks scored five tries with Dane Coles, Ma’a Nonu (twice) and Conrad Smith crossing the line along with the penalty try, while Carter was on song with his boot landing all five conversions and two penalties.
The Wallabies, who have scored at least two tries in their past nine Tests, were limited to one late touchdown by Israel Folau and two Cooper penalties.
The sense of urgency in the All Blacks’ play was fitting for the farewell appearance in New Zealand by six of their elder statesmen — Richie McCaw, in his record-setting 142nd Test, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.
– Early jitters –
The All Blacks were jittery at the start allowing the Wallabies to control territory and possession, with a Cooper penalty putting them on the board first.
But when the All Blacks settled they piled on 13 points through the middle stages of the first half. Carter landed two penalties and played a central role in the All Blacks’ first try, an end-to-end move that started with a turnover by Sam Whitelock.
The All Blacks elected to counter attack from inside their 22, with Carter stepping through two defenders before sending hooker Coles on a 40-metre run to the line.
Cooper came back with a second penalty for the Wallabies as they went into the break with the All Blacks ahead 13-6.
The deficit forced Cheika into action during the break, replacing Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton with the more mobile David Pocock and Dean Mumm.
But it did little to stem the All Blacks’ tide, with Ben Smith and Nehe Milner-Skudder combining to put Aaron Smith on a run to the line where he was felled three metres short by Cooper, who ended up in the sin-bin.
With a one-man advantage, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith quickly piled on the points for the All Blacks, who raced to a 41-6 lead before Folau scored the Wallabies’ sole try late in the game.
Not only did the All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup, contested annually between the trans-Tasman rivals, but they also kept alive their formidable record at Eden Park, where they have won 34 consecutive Tests since 1994.
Australia have not won there since 1986. – Agence France-Presse