All Blacks complete Bledisloe sweep
October 19, 2013
Jeremy Thrush slotted seamlessly into the starting side
© Getty Images
New Zealand ran the Wallabies off their feet in a record-breaking win in Dunedin to sweep the three-Test Bledisloe Cup series. With the silverware already locked in New Zealand's cabinet, both teams played without inhibition in a seven-try affair that marked in style the All Blacks' 30th successive win on home soil - equalling their own world-record mark established from 2003-2008.
The All Blacks scored four slick tries as they maintained their thorough recent dominance over Australia, after previous wins in Sydney and Wellington in August, while Aaron Cruden kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalty goals. Cruden kicked seven from 10 for New Zealand and scored a try in his 23-point haul, while his Wallabies counterpart, Quade Cooper, landed six-from-six shots plus a dropped goal to score 18 points in an impressive personal performance.
Julian Savea scored the first try of the Test in Dunedin © Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu turned in another performance to make Super Rugby coaches wonder © Getty Images
The All Blacks now have lost just two of their past 20 Tests against Australia, and haven't lost at home by them in 16 Tests since 2001 - when they last previously played each other in Dunedin, at Carisbrook. The All Blacks also maintained their perfect record from 10 Tests this year, heading into an end-of-season tour that involves Tests in Japan, France, England and Ireland.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie identified the All Blacks' strength and ability in the loose as the key element of their victory.
"The breakdown was interesting," McKenzie said. "There was a bunch of turnovers there. They're good in that area; you've got to be really good to be able to get that continuity. I thought we played with more continuity, but we were untidy at key moments. There's no secret: turnovers kill you. That's been there off and on [through the season]; that's the frustrating part. I know we're capable, but you've got to treasure the ball better."
Wallabies captain James Horwill agreed.
"They turned us over when we were on attack, and we didn't complete our territory into points," Horwill said. "When we played up-tempo, we looked good; we've just got to be a bit more accurate at the breakdown. At times they pressured us a lot there, and we need to be better."
Quade Cooper was strong in defence and attack in Dunedin © Getty Images
The All Blacks were physically dominant at the breakdown © Getty Images
New Zealand captain Kieran Read said the All Blacks' strength was their ability to "pick the moments" to attack the breakdown. "When you play a high-tempo game like both side do, sometimes you can be isolated: picking those moments - we did that today, and actually capitalised with a few of those turnovers."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was "very proud of the boys".
"It's been a big couple of weeks," Hansen said. "We've gone around the world and played two big opposition teams, and you can't underestimate how hard the game in South Africa was. To come here and show a bit of mental fortitude again, and play pretty well against a team that played pretty well as well … "
Hansen said that he had wanted his team to match the standards of their epic victory against South Africa in Johannesburg to claim the Rugby Championship.
"In some ways we probably did and others we didn't because we didn't have that intensity at the end," he said. "We came here and are playing a team that we're marginally in front of so it came down to a mental thing for us. [Australia] played with a lot more freedom tonight than they have been and, as a consequence, scored some tries."
The Wallabies opened the scoring with the first of Cooper's three penalties after an impressive start, but the All Blacks soon assumed command and scored their first try through Julian Savea - his 16th in 18 Tests - after a simple blindside overlap following a sharp incision by Israel Dagg. That pair then were heavily involved in the next try, to flanker Sam Cane, set up by a pinpoint cross-kick from Cruden.
Tevita Kuridrani finally looked at home in the test arena © Getty Images
Cruden's try came after a relentless All Blacks attack that stretched the Wallabies' defence from one side of the field to the other.
Cooper set up the Wallabies' first try on the stroke of half-time, sending a sweet loop pass to wing Adam Ashley-Cooper. The visitors then scored the first try after the interval, when Tevita Kuridrani intercepted a pass from Savea and sprinted 60 metres before putting midfield partner Matt Toomua over.
Read, promoted to All Blacks captain following a midweek injury to Richie McCaw, bagged the All Blacks' final try 25 minutes from full-time before the game entered a rare quiet period. The Wallabies finished the stronger of two fatigued teams, and Kuridrani broke the drought three minutes from time with a converted try that ended New Zealand's record of winning all their Tests this year by double figures.
McKenzie feels "like we're improving", and he said "there was some good stuff in there, but not good enough". He lamented that "we let them get away and then play catch-up ... we just lost control of the ball at crucial times".
Hansen, equally, was pleased the All Blacks responded positively whenever the Wallabies threatened to work themselves back into a threatening position. "They scored before and after half-time which allowed them to stay in the contest," Hansen said. "I was very pleased with the way we responded to that."
Kieran Read produced another immense performance © Getty Images
The All Blacks won another thrill-a-minute Test against Australia (video available only in Australia)
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene