Ben Smith scored a hat-trick as New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship title defense with a six-try 47-29 victory over Australia yesterday to ruin Ewen McKenzie’s first match as Wallabies coach.
The All Blacks scored three tries either side of halftime with Aaron Cruden, Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith supplementing Ben Smith’s triple score.
Will Genia and James O’Connor scored what were ultimately consolation tries for the home side with Christian Leali’ifano adding 19 points from the boot.
As well as giving the All Blacks a bonus point in the Rugby Championship, the victory means Australia must win both the return in Wellington next week and in Dunedin in October to claim the Bledisloe Cup.
It took Ben Smith just three minutes to score the first All Blacks try. Pouncing on a knock on, New Zealand charged to the home try line and Aaron Smith fed quick ball to Cruden who took a tackle before finding his winger to touch down.
Australia inched back into the match on the back of three Leali’ifano penalties to one from Cruden and the Wallabies center gave the home side a 12-10 lead with his fourth.
The advantage lasted less than a minute before Leali’ifano had a kick charged down by Cruden, who recovered the ball to score and then converted his own try.
Three minutes later, Jesse Mogg failed to find touch with a clearance kick and the All Blacks stormed forward for McCaw to score a try.
After Michael Hooper snared a loose ball at the lineout, Will Genia raced nearly 60m to touch down under the posts. Leali’ifano added the extras to reduce the gap to three points, but Cruden added his second penalty just before the break.
A fifth Leali’ifano penalty six minutes after the break narrowed the deficit, but two tries in six minutes put the visitors back in charge.
First Aaron Smith burst up the middle of the Australian defense before feeding Conrad Smith, who skipped past Mogg to touch down.
When the All Blacks got quick ball under the Wallabies’ posts in the 57th minute, it was just a matter of getting the ball down the backline to put Ben Smith in to score.
Cruden hit the uprights for the second time on the night with his conversion kick, but the All Blacks looked comfortable at 37-22.
He took the All Blacks to 40 points with his third penalty, while Smith’s third try was simplicity itself when Tevita Kuridrani released the ball at the tackle leaving the winger to scoop it up and score.
O’Connor scored in the final seconds for the Wallabies.