GARETH DUNCAN watched Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams make telling contributions in the All Blacks’ 22-0 victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park.
On the back of an errant first-half performance, the All Blacks dominated the second stanza to clinch a comfortable win and the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th consecutive year.
The victors didn’t have the forwards dominance they enjoyed in Sydney last week, but they were the better team in general play and they capitalised on the Wallabies’ ill-discipline.
Carter and Williams should take most of the credit for this triumph, with the flyhalf starring with the boot and the latter playing a key role on attack.
Carter slotted six of his seven goal attempts, for a personal tally of 17 points (five penalties and one conversion). He also formed a dangerous combination with Williams, who troubled the Aussie defence regularly.
The All Blacks No 12 carried the ball strongly and offloaded superbly, and created most of his team’s try-scoring opportunities. While New Zealand failed to capitalise on these chances in the opening 40, Israel Dagg finished off a move started by the inside centre after the break.
It was Williams’ last Test before his move to Japan. He will be sorely missed as he’s grown into one of the best inside centres in world rugby. He’s become an important cog in the All Blacks line-up, especially with ball in hand. The experienced Conrad Smith should recover from an eye injury ahead of the Kiwis’ next Rugby Championship fixture against Argentina and is a quality player to fill in the midfield. But New Zealand rugby will poorer during Williams’ absence.
The Wallabies started well in the first quarter, with Michael Hooper a menace at the breakdowns, and the Australian heavies fronting up on attack and defence. But the visitors failed to convert this ascendancy into points.
The All Blacks then started controlling matters after a shaky showing in the first quarter. Williams starred on this platform and his fellow backs exposed the gaps in the opposition’s guard. However, they fell short on every occasion. Carter eventually opened the scoring with a 25th minute penalty.
The Wallabies suffered a major blow when Will Genia was yellow-carded for cynical play moments later. But despite having a one-man advantage, the All Blacks still couldn’t reach the whitewash. Instead, they scored two more penalties, which was enough for a 9-0 lead at half-time.
The All Blacks then sealed the match early in the second half. Dagg touched down five minutes after the restart, while Carter added the extras and kicked two penalties for a commanding advantage.
The Wallabies were never going to score 20-plus points in the final quarter. They lacked creativity with possession, even with Quade Cooper’s inclusion, and their ploy to turn down kickable penalties to pursue the try saw them finish the match without any points on the scoreboard.
The winning margin could’ve been greater if the All Blacks had more composure during the dying stages. They made poor decisions and spilled the pill near the tryline. But nevertheless, the mission was accomplished in Auckland and this will be remembered as one of the Wallabies’ most embarrassing defeats.