New Zealand put one hand on Bledisloe and Tri-Nations silverware on Saturday as they demolished Australia 49-28 in Melbourne.
New Zealand put one hand on both the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe silverware on Saturday as they crushed Australia 49-28 in a classic at Etihad Stadium.
It was simply an outstanding contest between two attack-minded sides. Five tries in the first-half and not a single scrum reset until the 75th minute as rugby was played how it always should be.
The fine result now puts the All Blacks on fifteen tournament points in 2010, with nearest rivals Australia and the pointless Springboks swiftly looking a distant second and third in the south.
But what about this New Zealand outfit? Call it over the top to be talking like this so soon but they have the confident and assured air of a world champion team in the making. Calmness, ruthlessness and attacking brilliance were on show as players like Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter stood up to the plate. They were not alone.
Yes the Wallabies were reduced to fourteen just after the break when Drew Mitchell was shown his second yellow, but in truth the game was up.
The contest itself began at quite a pace and in the end continued in that fashion. First it was Matt Giteau – in for the banned Quade Cooper – who ran from his own 22 in a breathtaking play that led to New Zealand coming offside and the Brumby slotting over the opening three.
However, it only took Carter just three minutes to level matters with a penalty of his own before dÃ©jÃ vu, calamity, whatever you want to call it, hit the Melbourne surface.
Only a minute after DC had knocked over those points, he became the villain when his attempted clearance was too slow in leaving his boot and Mitchell capitalised for the opening try wide out, proving once again he should always remain in this Wallaby squad.
That was the first part of a rather comical sketch though as Carter promptly became a hero by charging down Berrick Barnes' almost identical clearance to score. The visiting number ten did knock over the extra two points – unlike Giteau – to make it 10-8 to the blacks.
Then came a moment of brilliance from wing Cory Jane following turnover ball inside away territory. The impressive Brad Thorn was a key ingredient in the score by drawing two gold tacklers for the overlapping Keven Mealamu to hand on to Ma'a Nonu, who offloaded to centre partner Conrad Smith before Jane's chip – despite being held by Rocky Elsom – dropped perfectly for the supporting Mils Muliaina to grab his first of two scores.
Giteau did pull the scores back to 15-11 and when prop Owen Franks was yellow-carded for a no-arm tackle on Richard Brown, one sensed it could a route back for the Wallabies.
Unfortunately for Australia that proved not to be the case as New Zealand's fourteen men produced another seven points, with turnover ball again the catalyst. McCaw it was who finished this time, superbly I might add down the left wing after one of those moves off of Graham Henry's midweek training paper. It worked a treat mind on 27 minutes.
Penalties were traded by Giteau and Carter to move the scoreline up to 22-14 in favour of the All Blacks, but then came the bonus-point try before the interval. The Cantabrian's penalty-push deep into the corner led to a slick lineout set-move that involved the mobile Thorn and Franks before a switch to the blindside saw Jane finish well in the corner.
The turnaround was a chance for Robbie Deans to rally his troops who were 32-14 down. However, the comeback that the coach was looking for was not forthcoming as Mitchell's second yellow – for slapping down the ball in touch – put the game beyond doubt.
Adam Ashley-Cooper did pull the scores back to 39-21 after his opposite number Muliaina had gone over to complete his rather simple brace, but then Joe Rokocoko, Rocky Elsom and Corey Flynn rounded off New Zealand's eighth-straight win over the Wallabies.
Man-of-the-match: So many stood out but we have gone for Richie McCaw, who provided yet again for the All Blacks. Mentions too for Brad Thorn, Cory Jane and Mils Muliaina.
Moment-of-the-match: No question about this one as Cory Jane's chip over the top for Mils Muliaina was breathtaking. Despite being semi-tackled by Rocky Elsom, the 'Canes man found his full-back for an excellent score that hurt the Wallabies deeply.
Villain-of-the-match: Maybe slightly harsh but the official who pinged Drew Mitchell for an alleged no-arm tackle. We still haven't seen when and where it happened as Australia were attacking at the time. Explain, anyone?
Tries: Mitchell, Ashley-Cooper, Elsom
Con: Giteau 2
Pen: Giteau 3
For New Zealand:
Tries: Carter, Muliaina 2, McCaw, Jane, Rokocoko, Flynn
Con: Carter 4
Pen: Carter 2
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley Cooper, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Kurtley Beale.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Israel Dagg.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
By Adam Kyriacou