The All Blacks won by 20 points in Sydney but it was the strangest walloping of the Wallabies in the strangest of Test matches.
The All Blacks led 54-6 after 54 minutes and then mentally left the stadium, the city and the country to allow the Wallabies to score 28 unanswered points in the most dominant of last quarters.
If you had switched on in the last 20 minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a mistake in the scores because the All Blacks were as absent in this period as the they were present in an opening 50 minutes that was among their most lethal attacking display since they took apart the Springboks in Durban.
The All Blacks won with a try-scoring bonus point in getting eight tries to four but after the intensity of the British and Irish Lions three-Test series this seemed like rugby’s equivalent of basketball. There were 12 tries scored and 88 tackles missed, according the television statistics, and 54 tackles missed according to the New Zealand Herald. Either way, there were way too many tackles missed for a Test match or any game of rugby.
The opening 40 minutes were too easy for the All Blacks and never did this feel like a Test match between two nations who were playing for the early bragging rights in the Bledisloe Cup. It seemed more like one Barbarians team playing another to try and sell a try-scoring extravaganza.
The attacking rugby of the All Blacks will be applauded but it must be counter balanced with the limp defensive effort of the Wallabies.
Equally, take with a pinch of salt talk that the Wallabies will be confident after a one-sided last 20 minutes.
The Wallabies may want to believe that they have the momentum heading to Dunedin for next weekend’s second round of Bledisloe Cup, which also doubles as a Rugby Championship match, but it would take some pretty partisan liberal Aussie thinking to believe they in any way have the edge on the All Blacks.
The All Blacks broke every Bledisloe Cup record in the first 54 minutes. The 40 first half points is the most scored in the history of clashes between these two teams, which dates back to 1903. The 54 points is also the most the All Blacks have ever scored against the Wallabies, surpassing the 50-21 win in Sydney in 2003.
But the 28 unanswered Wallabies points scored from the 60th to the 70th minute would also be some sort of record.
The Rugby Championship has been labelled a secondary competition to the Six Nations by many in the Northern Hemisphere and Saturday’s Sydney exhibition Test would simply add substance to this view.
It was easy on the eye for any neutral, but somehow it seemed like a Super Rugby match in which a title contender plays a title pretender.
The net result was the All Blacks won by 20 points and in Test rugby that remains a whipping.
The Wallabies have now won three and drawn two in their last 30 Tests against the All Blacks.
Australia 34 (K. Rona, T. Kuridrani, K. Beale, I. Folau tries; B. Foley 4 cons, 2 pens)
New Zealand 54 (L. Squire, R. Ioane (2), R. Crotty (2), S. Williams, D. McKenzie, B. Smith tries; B. Barrett 7 cons)