GARETH DUNCAN watched the All Blacks ease to a comfortable 27-19 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
It wasn’t the most convincing All Blacks performance, but there were clear signs that the current world champions will be the side to beat of this Rugby Championship.
They dominated most of the facets of play, especially in general play as their breakdown dominance laid the platform for this victory. The All Blacks pack dominated their Australian counterparts, which saw the backline thrive.
Despite this ascendancy, the All Blacks only had limited chances to cross the chalk. But they were lethal in the opposition’s red zone, finishing off most of their try-scoring opportunities. This should improve as this team continues to build during the campaign.
The scoreline flattered the Wallabies, who struggled on attack and were guilty of too many individual errors. Kurtley Beale had a nightmare at fullback as his two missed tackles in the last line of defence cost his team two tries.
The boot of Berrick Barnes kept the hosts in the game, but they’ll need to work on their cohesion and offence if they want to be a threat this season. Talks of them being the Pumas’ best bet for victory on Argentinean soil seem likely.
The Wallabies enjoyed a good start to the match, forcing a penalty from an early scrum shortly after the kick-off. Barnes was on target. But once the All Blacks kicked into gear, they gained control of the match.
The All Blacks surged into a 13-3 lead by the end of the first quarter, thanks to Israel Dagg’s try and Dan Carter’s boot.
Dagg’s try came from a smart set-piece move, which saw Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu’s dummy runs suck in the Wallabies defence, and Carter’s accurate pass to his fullback giving him a one-on-one run against Beale. And Dagg beat the Aussie No 15 on his outside to sneak in at the corner. Carter added the extras, in addition to two penalties.
The Wallabies created promising chances thereafter, but poor handling and interplay saw the All Blacks easily restricting the home team, creating pressure.
This pressure was evident on the half-hour mark as Beale knocked-on an easy pass from Genia in the Wallabies’ 22m area, which proved costly. From the resulting scrum, the All Blacks shifted possession quickly through the backline, which created space for Cory Jane out wide. Again, Beale was beaten on the outside and Jane dived over.
With an 18-3 advantage, it looked like the All Blacks were going to cruise to victory. But the Wallabies hit back cruicially before half-time as Digby Ioane’s rush to the tryline put Nathan Sharpe in a position to power over. Barnes kicked the conversion for the last points of the first stanza, which saw the All Blacks hold an 18-10 lead at the break.
The final 40 proved to be a kicking contest, with Carter and Barnes adding three penalties apiece. The All Blacks had two clear try-scoring opportunities, but the Wallabies did well to force the visitors into touch.
Australia managed to cut the deficit to five points during the dying stages of the Test as Barnes slotted his fourth three-pointer. But it was always going to be too late and New Zealand held on.
Carter kicked a penalty for the last action of the game, taking the winning margin to eight points and denying the hosts a losing bonus-point.
Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans’ record against the All Blacks reads three wins from 16 fixtures. This will likely be three from 17 next weekend when the two teams clash again in Auckland.