Ma’a Nonu grabbed two tries as the All Blacks went up a gear and silenced their critics by scoring 28 points in the second half to thrash Australia 41-13 at Eden Park in Auckland yesterday and retain the Bledisloe Cup.
Dane Coles and Conrad Smith also scored tries, while referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try for a high tackle on scrumhalf Aaron Smith by Quade Cooper, that resulted in the flyhalf being sinbinned in the 47th minute.
The All Blacks scored two of their tries while he was off the field.
Dan Carter added 16 points from the boot in captain Richie McCaw’s record 142nd Test match as the world champions stamped an emphatic message to their challengers that they would not relinquish the Webb Ellis trophy easily.
Cooper slotted two first-half penalties, while Israel Folau scored a consolation late try for the visitors, who after a 27-19 victory in Sydney last week had hopes of clinching the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since they lost it in 2003.
“That was a performance the whole country can be proud of and we in the team are incredibly proud of,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “It’s more of what we expect from our group and this goes to show we were well off the pace last week.”
While the lessons from Sydney did not seem to have been learned by the home side in the opening quarter, when they were error-prone and kicked much of their possession away, the Wallabies barely featured in the final 60 minutes.
A turnover by Sam Whitelock deep inside his own territory after a succession of Wallabies attacks in the 21st minute that led to Coles’ try changed the momentum of the game.
The All Blacks went into halftime with a narrow 13-6 lead, but came out in the second half with marked improvement to their accuracy, intensity and decisionmaking.
Their forwards cleared out at the breakdown, phases were built and they allowed the backs to run more directly at their opponents.
Carter used that extra space to put his running game on show, while Nonu’s hard, straight bursts got them over the advantage line and punched holes in the defense.
The All Blacks put the Wallabies under immense pressure before Cooper’s indiscretion, with Michael Cheika’s gamble to play the flyhalf despite his history of poor performances against the New Zealanders not bearing fruit.
Several of Cheika’s other selection gambles, notably Will Skelton, Wycliff Palu and Henry Speight, were mostly anonymous and but for Folau’s try from a wayward cross-kick, the score could have been more damaging to their confidence ahead of the World Cup.
“We knew it would be tough, but we got outclassed tonight,” Wallabies captain Stephen Moore said. “Full credit to Richie and his team.”
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