The anticipated first up clash between the All Blacks and the Wallabies played out on Saturday night and lived up to its hype, at least for the New Zealand supporters. The All Blacks were dominant, the Wallabies lacking, and the Auckland crowd loved it as NZ triumphed 30-14 to keep the Bledisloe Cup in the country for another year.
All the hype leading up to this test was about the age of the New Zealand team, with an average age of 29 years old amongst the 15 starting players. This was the oldest starting XV for the All Blacks in its 477 test history dating back to 1903 and even older than the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team England. But in being old, the AB’s had stacks of experience and this was shown in the way they calmly went about their business in defeating the younger, more youthful Australians. They attacked with flair and defended with ease against the likes of the exciting Quade Cooper and Will Genia. The forward pack outmuscled their counterparts and laid the platform for Ma’a Nonu and Kevin Mealamu to score a try each in the first half. Nonu along with his centre partner Conrad Smith were brilliant in the midfield both in attack and defence. Piri Weepu was also good along with captain Richie McCaw and his two other loose forwards.
The Wallabies will learn a lot from their loss and will take that into this weekend’s Tri Nations match against South Africa. Although the Wallabies had more share of both possession and territory in the first half, they couldn’t convert it into any points and went into halftime trailing 17-0. This was due to the All Blacks superb defence which consistently pushed Australia to go wide, and then smothered them towards the touchline or forced them to make a mistake. There were some better signs in the second half but the forwards will need to muscle up and give those exciting backs some forward momentum if they want to push their claim for this years Tri Nations trophy. Robbie Deans is likely to stick with the same team although Nathan Sharpe might be an inclusion as he was named in the touring squad heading to Durban this weekend. Sharpe has plenty of experience in the Wallaby jumper and might give the forward pack the leadership it needs right now.
This was the 12th straight loss for the Wallabies against the All Blacks and means they will have to wait another year to have a crack at the Bledisloe Cup which hasn’t been in Australia since 2002. Their 25 year winless record at Eden Park also continues which they would want to overcome if they were to face the All Blacks in what would be a spectacular Rugby World Cup Final in late October. After watching Saturday night’s performance however, they have a fair way to go to match the brilliant All Blacks who will continue to get stronger and better with the World Cup only a month away.