All Blacks run riot against Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup opener

  • Australia 13-38 New Zealand
  • All Blacks dominant in comfortable win in Sydney

Former Wallabies captain Mark Loane once described lineout possession lost as rugby’s “slow poison”, meaning eventually it will kill you. On Saturday night at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, the All Blacks stole seven of the Wallabies’ lineout throws and killed the home side 38-13. The All Blacks have enough ways to kill you without adding poisoning.

The Wallabies led 6-5 at half-time but their set piece in the second half was diabolical. And coupled with the All Blacks’ storming counter-attack, rushing defence and smart, physical work at the breakdown, the visitors scored 33 points in the second-half, a record against Australia.

On the back of possession, the All Blacks made 15 clean breaks and the Wallabies missed 39 tackles. Towards full-time, so ragged was the Wallabies’ line, big Brodie Retallick was throwing dummies and running 40m to score. By the end it was a rout.

Retallick’s lock partner Sam Whitelock, with something of the Kodiak bear about him, ran out first in his 100th Test and TJ Perenara led the traditional “Ka Mate” haka before kick-off. Michael Hooper returned serve with a cold steel stare, and took a couple little strides towards the challenge. It was as tough as the Wallabies got.

There followed a slog-fest, both sides rushing runners and launching shoulders into sternums. It was a disjointed fixture early on as both sides dropped ball and lacked rhythm. But when Kieran Read and Sam Cane attacked the ball hard at the breakdown, Read was penalised and Reece Hodge thumped a 40m goal for the first points of the night. His kicks soar as if at altitude.

Cane launched himself at the hard-charging Lukhan Tui. He had run high a time or two and this time he was crunched by the squat No 7. Body-height was suggested by his captain. Meanwhile, debutant Jack Goodhue’s head whacked Ryan Crotty flush on the jaw, forcing him off, not to return, his place taken by Anton Lienert-Brown.

Aaron Smith’s service was slick and his wrists snapped like Graeme Bachop’s. Ben Smith ran fine incisions while Beauden Barrett linked and kicked. Rieko Ioane coughed it up and Hodge kicked it 50m on the fly. Then Goodhue ran at him, straight, channelling Frank Bunce, hips of iron.

The Wallabies piled in and won a turnover. Israel Folau, Tui and Tatafu Polota-Nau made hard charges but staunch defence saw out multiple phases. The All Blacks fouled at the breakdown and Hooper made a case to the referee they had done so professionally. Jaco Peyper pointed to the hand and Hooper pointed to the sticks.

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Jermaine Ainsley replaced Sekope Kefu and when the All Blacks put a big shove on the boy, they won a penalty. This time Read pointed to the posts and Barrett hooked the kick. Then the Wallabies opened up. Ben Smith made a fine incision, passed to Goodhue who tipped on with a flick to Waisake Naholo, inside to Read, then to Aaron Smith who ran over. It was like a wave.

Barrett blocked the conversion and the Wallabies led by one at the break. But then the Wallabies set-piece splintered like balsa wood. The All Blacks stole lineouts on a whim and the poison kicked in.

Marika Koroibete turned it over and the All Blacks had numbers wide. After multiple passes and Reiko Ioane charging at pace, Goodhue ran home chased by five Wallabies forwards, all panting.

The Wallabies had their moments. Will Genia stole an intercept, Bernard Foley ran, kicked, and the Wallabies went 50m. But Tolu Latu threw a dud speculator, highlighting the need for patience and experience. Dale Haylett-Petty then knocked-on and soon after Barrett channelled Allan Langer or Alan Shearer when he toed the ball 50m, controlling it and scoring. Wallabies coach Michael Chieka gripped the bridge of his nose, seeking meaning.

Worryingly for the Wallabies, Folau, who landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge, was forced off and doubts hang over the star fullback ahead of next weekend’s rematch in Auckland.

To make matters worse, Retallick ran through, selling Foley a dummy Steve Larkham would’ve enjoyed, to put the visitors up by 20. Damien McKenzie came on, a livewire and hardly what the tired Wallabies needed at that point.

Jack Maddocks, who had come on for the Wallabies in the No. 23 of Shane Warne and Michael Jordan, gave his family a thrill when he finished off a movement for the Wallabies only try of the night.

But Naholo added two further late tries for the All Blacks and the margin blew out to 25 points. The gulf is the Tasman Sea, and on the other side of it is Eden Park where the Wallabies haven’t won since 1986. Poison could be an option.


Matt Cleary at ANZ Stadium

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