Mark the All Blacks high octane victory in Perth down as an emphatic statement of depth.
Securing a clean sweep over a highly motivated Wallabies side is a notable achievement. To do it in these circumstances is another entirely.
Before moving on it must be said this match, played in front of a 60,000 sell-out, should hand NZ Rugby a wake up call when it comes to staging more afternoon rugby. Nine tries and a spectacle and a half this was.
Now consider the adversity the All Blacks overcame to deliver the Wallabies a soul-destroying defeat, with another standout performance from Akira Ioane confirming he has well and truly arrived in the No 6 jersey.
Already missing centurions Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and in-form playmaker Richie Mo’unga, the All Blacks were dealt further blows with Ardie Savea, captain for the first time, and experienced hooker Codie Taylor suffering head knocks and being ruled out in the first half.
Then, of course, there was the highly debatable red card – the sixth in All Blacks history.
With the All Blacks leading 13-0 after 27 minutes, Jordie Barrett was shown red after raising his foot while catching a high ball. Barrett’s sprigs collected Marika Koroibete in the face and despite the clear accidental nature of the incident, Australian referee Damon Murphy was unwavering in his red card punishment.
The only saving grace of the unfortunate event was that in the Rugby Championship red carded players can be replaced after 20 minutes.
That was not the case two years ago at this venue, when Scott Barrett was red carded late in the first half and the All Blacks suffered a record loss to the Wallabies.
While the Ioane brothers stood out, newly-reappointed All Blacks coach Ian Foster will take great satisfaction from a performance in which many of his second and third choice players seamlessly stepped up. That includes Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder who came off the bench.
Successive bonus point wins over the Wallabies leaves Foster’s All Blacks well placed in the Rugby Championship as they eye two tests each against the Pumas and world champion Springboks in the coming weeks.
The backs scored all six tries for the All Blacks but the real heroes came up front where they were supremely dominant.
To a man the work of the All Blacks forward pack on defence and at the breakdown was exceptional. The breakdown is an area the All Blacks have struggled in recent times – Fiji among those to expose weaknesses – but it was a different story in Perth. Taylor, Havili, and Dalton Papalii won breakdown penalties but the collective decision-making and urgency to attack the Wallabies ball was superb.
Defensively, Scott Barrett harassed the Wallabies all afternoon.
With ball in hand the All Blacks were equally dominant. The offloading from their big men; strong carries from Akira Ioane, Brodie Retallick storming over the top of Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, Beauden Barrett laying on Jordie Barrett’s opening try with a deft grubber for Will Jordan and Rieko Ioane splitting the men in green and gold up the middle were all instances of beauty in their own right.
That theme continued in the second half with Rieko Ioane running down Tom Banks and Akira Ioane beating three defenders to send Will Jordan in for his 11th test try.
On the back of this performance, it’s clear this All Blacks squad is united and determined.
The Wallabies claimed three tries but they were again underwhelming, particularly during a horror first half. Koroibete was denied two tries – the first for a ruck infringement, the second for a double movement – but otherwise the Wallabies were in self-sabotage mode, such was the defensive pressure the All Blacks consistently applied.
As was the case in their record defeat at Eden Park, Dave Rennie’s men failed to make the most of their one-man advantage – this time for 20 minutes.
Instead the All Blacks drove the Wallabies pack back 20 metres and Havili crashed over for a remarkable 18-0 halftime lead.
By the time Damian McKenzie restored the All Blacks to their full complement 10 minutes into the second half they had scored five points and conceded none while reduced to 14 men.
When it was 15 against 15 the All Blacks largely ran rampant, leaving the Wallabies to ponder where to next after another humbling.
With their backs to the wall in challenging circumstances the All Blacks responded. Keeping taking these sorts of steps and their apparent ceiling will be redefined.
All Blacks 38 (David Havili 2, Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge tries; Beauden Barrett con, 2 pens)
Wallabies 21 (Folau Fainga’a, Nic White, Tom Banks tries; Noah Lolesio 2 cons, Reece Hodge con)
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