SYDNEY • New Zealand served up a Halloween nightmare for an inexperienced Wallabies side by romping to a record 43-5 victory in the Tri-Nations opener yesterday.
The ruthless All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year by blitzing a young Australian team to reinforce their trans-Tasman dominance.
After winning 27-7 in Auckland, which followed a tense 16-16 draw in Wellington, they accomplished their mission in Sydney by their biggest winning margin against the Wallabies, with one match of the series to go next week.
Fly-half Richie Mo’unga bagged 23 points to ensure bragging rights went to New Zealand coach Ian Foster who, like his opposite number Dave Rennie, is in charge for his first Bledisloe Cup tournament.
“It’s more than a relief, it’s exciting,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane, adding that the team would celebrate with “a few fizzies”.
“It’s a lot of feelings but I’m just really proud of the group and excited about what’s ahead.”
Mo’unga scored two brilliant individual tries in six first-half minutes and forwards Karl Tu’inukuafe and Dane Coles also crossed as the visitors raced to a 26-0 lead in just half an hour.
While the match was the third Bledisloe fixture, it was also the first of the Tri Nations – also featuring Argentina – rebranded from the Rugby Championship after world champions South Africa pulled out.
In front of just 25,000 fans at a wet ANZ Stadium, fewer than the 38,000 allowed under Covid-19 rules, the All Blacks overwhelmed the Wallabies in a breathless first half that saw two yellow cards, four tries and two disallowed tries.
A ragged Australia were fortunate to be down only 26-0 at the break and there was no way back for Rennie’s men.
The pain eased for the home crowd early in the second half when Australia flyhalf Noah Lolesio scored a try on his Test debut, but Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett blew out the score in the last 10 minutes.
Mo’unga converted five of six tries and added a penalty to ensure the highest victory margin for the All Blacks in 169 Tests against their neighbours.
New Zealand were physically too strong and again exposed the frailties of Australia’s defensive wall. The hosts badly missed the calming presence of experienced backs Matt To’omua and James O’Connor, who were both injured.
“We’re hurting a lot from that,” said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper. “It’s a hit to the confidence now. We’re going to go look back at sticking to our game plan, we got out on the field and we changed direction.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS