Australia celebrated a record-setting Bledisloe Cup victory over 14-man rivals New Zealand to keep themselves in the running for the Rugby Championship title.
The Wallabies entered Saturday’s match trailing both the All Blacks and South Africa in the standings but, with the Springboks in action later on Saturday, Michael Cheika’s men moved into pole position with a 47-26 success, which marks New Zealand’s joint-heaviest defeat and the most points they have conceded in a Test.
New Zealand had won the sides’ past six Rugby Championship meetings, yet Scott Barrett’s red card for an apparent shoulder charge on Michael Hooper’s neck late in the first half gave them an uphill battle.
Australia, already leading from Christian Lealiifano’s boot, capitalised on the man advantage and ran in six tries, meaning an Argentina win in Salta could hand Cheika’s side the title.
Meanwhile, a tough weekend for the All Blacks could yet get worse as a Wales victory over England would see them knocked off the top of the world rankings for the first time since 2009.
— OptaJason (@OptaJason) August 10, 2019
The Wallabies started on the front foot and Lealiifano kicked the first points of the match with a sixth-minute penalty, before the breakthrough try quickly followed.
A risky Australia pass on halfway just evaded Anton Lienert-Brown, allowing James O’Connor – making his first start since 2013 – to pick up the ball, hold off Jack Goodhue and free Reece Hodge for a straightforward dash with a one-handed offload.
But the hosts’ hard work was swiftly undone. Goodhue threaded a grubber kick in behind, captains Kieran Read and Hooper tussled in pursuit of the ball, and Lienert-Brown touched down.
Then the All Blacks led from a devastating move up the left, a loose touch in the midfield allowing the jinking Aaron Smith to send through Rieko Ioane despite Australian appeals for a forward pass.
A second Lealiifano penalty re-established the Wallabies’ foothold in the contest and they were handed a huge boost on the stroke of half-time as Scott Barrett was sent off. Lealiifano again kicked the consequent penalty.
A feisty encounter had been building towards such a flash point, but it was attack-versus-defence after the restart and Rory Arnold’s juggling in the corner drew attention away from Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who went over.
Samu Kerevi superbly rode three challenges down the left to set up Nic White for another score, before the All Blacks responded as talisman Beauden Barrett motored through to reach the line.
There was no let up in Australia’s attacking intent and Marika Koroibete crossed from close range before Hodge used his quick feet to capitalise on another O’Connor assist, although Ngani Laumape’s excellent individual effort restored some pride for the visitors.
The Wallabies continued to enjoy themselves, however, and Beale added the final flourish with another powerful run through the middle.
KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta