Saturday night’s Bledisloe bloodbath showed that the depth of New Zealand rugby is stronger than ever with the All Blacks’ 42-8 win over the Wallabies.
The main difference was basic skills from the All Blacks. Every single pass in the first half was in front of the player at chest-level in the perfect position. Even the offloads were hitting the mark. They were allowed to do this, however, by a poor defensive structure from the Wallabies. The home side were constantly on their heels, not pushing up off the line and their one-on-one tackling was the same standard as a 1st XV high school team, missing a combined 40 tackles.
I’m not sure what the Australian team were doing for the last four weeks in camp but it looked like they had no attacking game-plan. The New Zealand defence was good without being outstanding, so there were opportunities for the Wallabies to attack but they just didn’t have any ideas. By midway through the first half they started playing as individuals and that continued for the rest the night.
— Courier Mail Sport (@cmail_sport) August 20, 2016
Three injuries to their second receivers, Matt Giteau (ankle), Matt Toomua (Concussion) and Rob Horne (Dislocated shoulder) probably didn’t help, but as professional rugby players, everyone should know the game-plan no matter what position they’re playing.
It did seem to be one of those nights for the All Blacks, though, with everything coming together with the bounce of the ball going their way. Their outstanding skill level helped them run in a stream of breathtaking tries – four in the first half and two after the break.
Dane Haylett-Petty looked out of position defensively on the wing, missing two crucial tackles that lead to tries. Haylett-Petty usually plays at fullback for the Force, but with Israel Folau at fullback he has to play out on the flank to get a spot in the team.
David Pocock was his usual self, being a pest at the breakdown – but referee Jaco Peyper deemed him to be infringing at most rucks and penalised him out of the game. Pocock should have been more focused on making dominant tackles instead of lingering as the second man in, looking for a pilfer.
— Mark Riley (@Riley7News) August 20, 2016
Michael Hooper was again a workhorse for his side and if the Wallabies follow his example, along with Pocock’s, it would’ve been a different game.
Reserve halfback Nick Phipps had to play on the wing due to the several injuries and was the Wallabies’ best back. His energy around the ball and constant work-rate was fantastic, and he was rewarded with a try in the 74th minute.
— NSW Waratahs (@NSWWaratahs) August 20, 2016
James Slipper came off the bench and decided to cheap-shot his way to this 80th minute. Constantly pushing people after the whistle, pushing opponents’ heads in to the ground and just being an absolute grub. It seems he was sorted out in the 74th-minute as he went off with a bleeding nose.
Beauden Barrett continued his sizzling form from Super Rugby into the international arena by getting man-of-the-match, scoring one try and setting up a couple. He was outstanding and can only get better being in the starting jersey for the rest of the series. Barrett moved to inside centre when Ryan Crotty went off with a head knock at halftime and continued his fine game at second receiver outside Aaron Cruden.
A photo posted by Beauden Barrett (@beaudenbarrett) on
The well-documented midfield of Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa got a pass mark. Both were tremendous on attack, although they weren’t tested too much on defence and made a combined 15 tackles from 15 attempts. I’m not sure if it’s just me but Fekitoa seems to be a metre off the pace – he just doesn’t have the same explosiveness as he did last year, but maybe it’s a case of second-year syndrome and defences have figured him out.
Dane Coles started the week out of the 23 to rest his injured rib cartilage. He was called up to the reserves bench due to Nathan Harris going down with an injury midweek at training. Coach Steve Hansen said they wouldn’t use him unless starting hooker Codie Taylor was injured. Sure enough, Taylor went down in the third minute and Coles came on and played the rest of the game. If you watched him closely at the start he was very tentative, clearly hampered by his rib complaint. When receiving the ball he would offload quickly and went to ground as soon as he got tackled. He played his role extremely well, though, being one of the best players on ground, and even managed to dot down in the 56th minute in a courageous performance.
— Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) August 20, 2016
The Wallabies’ line-out was poor, losing five of their 15 throws. They also let through 22 line-breaks which I have never seen a Test mach – not between two heavyweights anyway.
The game was done and dusted at halftime with the score at 32-3 after tries to Crotty, Barrett, Jerome Kaino and Waisake Naholo, who was subsequently carried off with hamstring injury. Usually the halftime whistle is a chance to rebuild and refocus, but the All Blacks picked up where they left off – or probably more accurately the Wallabies did, with poor defence, no energy and just sitting back on their heels too much waiting for the world champions to attack.
The All Blacks will be slightly disappointed with their second half, only scoring two tries as the offloads that stuck in the first half started going to ground. But when you’re up by so much at half time it doesn’t really matter.
The Wallabies will have some deep soul-searching to do during the week. Commentators and Wallaby greats Matt Burke and Nathan Sharpe were constantly bagging their performance throughout the whole game and suggested at the end they should bring in some younger talent instead of persisting with the experienced players from Europe and in Australia.
They will have to find a new No.12 with Giteau, Horne and Toomua all out. Michael Chieka hinted today that potentially Reece Hodge could play there or they could even put Quade Cooper in the key role. Stranger things have happened…
Extremely poignant photo from Matt Giteau. Awesome player. Is this the end of his Wallabies career?? Hope not. pic.twitter.com/SqOg56wD3y
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) August 21, 2016