The Wallabies’ pathetic recent away record against major countries continued to haunt them last night when they were bulldozed 39-10 by the All Blacks in an embarrassingly one-sided Test.
Greg Gowden writes for RugbyHeaven Aus that It was the 15th Test in a row that Australia had succumbed to a top-shelf team on foreign soil, and the 22-year drought at Eden Park continues to bite deep into the Wallabies’ psyche.
It wasn’t a dreadful performance – there were occasional glimpses of good, flashy play – but they were out of sorts at the lineout as the All Blacks produced a more structured game. And unlike in Sydney, where they were on song in a 15-point triumph, the Wallabies were unable to have much of an impact at the breakdown. The return of All Blacks breakaway Richie McCaw last night was a significant factor in the All Blacks quickly and comfortably taking charge.
And to add to the woe, the Wallabies will be without their fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper for at least a month after he broke a bone in his hand early in the second half. Drew Mitchell is set to take over the No.15 jersey when they travel to South Africa for two Tests this month.
The Australian lineouts last night – with the Wallabies restricted to two key jumpers – were a complete mess, and they never looked like dominating an area that had caused New Zealand some trouble in recent trans-Tasman clashes.
Coach Robbie Deans admitted their poor lineout performance worked against them. “That’s not one we will look back on with pride,” Deans said.
“The game was a mirror of last week [in Sydney]. They didn’t allow us to build pressure, and as a consequence we were unable to get into the game. It was one of those days when you try to create pressure and intensity and nothing works.”
All Blacks coach Graham Henry was chuffed that the pressure was off him. “Tactically we played very well, and learnt a lot from last week,” he said. “We changed the game plan and we executed it well, which was pleasing. It was a big lineout game for us.”
McCaw said it was crucial “we succeeded in keeping the Wallabies off the front foot, and were able to perch in their territory”.
If the Wallabies were to have any hope of ending the Auckland hoodoo, it required them to assert their authority right from the start. That did not happen. Instead, an inability to control the midfield and the breakdown allowed the All Blacks to enjoy a charmed first half, and a convincing 21-10 lead at the break.
The early pace of the game was appreciably slower than the Sydney speed-fest last weekend, and the All Blacks were more interested in kicking towards the sideline and playing the lineout than continually belting it downfield.
That worked, with the home side succeeding in winning several crucial lineouts, including one in which a glaring gap in the middle of the Australian formation enabled New Zealand prop Tony Woodcock to score one of his two first-half tries that enabled New Zealand to stay well ahead.
The All Blacks began to assert their authority from the 15th minute, and it was inevitable that their constant snipes at the line from the breakdown would work. Woodcock was the big barge merchant required to take the pass one out and, with the Wallabies forwards committed to the tackle, had the easy task of running over the smaller Matt Giteau and Luke Burgess for the first try.
Three minutes later, the All Blacks used a precise lineout move to go 15 points ahead.
They threw long and second-rower Ali Williams tapped it forward to a charging Woodcock, who noticed that James Horwill was out of position and the try line was open.
Thankfully, the Wallabies rallied. With the best movement of the first half, Ashley-Cooper finished off a clever move that relied heavily on Stirling Mortlock charging around his opposite, Conrad Smith.
The killer blow occurred just after the break and behind an Australian lineout, when a wayward tap down by Nathan Sharpe was fumbled by Burgess and regathered by All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu. Nonu followed the play across field and was there when an opening appeared, veering inside Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri to score.
NEW ZEALAND 39 (Ma’a Nonu 2, Tony Woodcock 2 tries Daniel Carter 2 cons 5 pens)
AUSTRALIA 10 (Adam Ashley-Cooper try Matt Giteau con pen)