First blood in Sydney
By Roger Childs
After 47 minutes the All Blacks were ahead 54-6, but didn’t score again. Meanwhile the Wallabies ran in four converted tries to gain some respectability with 34 points by the end of play.
However in the lead up to Folau’s try there was a forward pass, a knock–on and an off side. All were clearly shown in the replays, but the unpredictable Wayne Barnes awarded the try!
Then a few minutes later he denied Beauden Barrett a charge-down try when he appeared to have pressed the ball momentarily before Bernard Foley, Barnes ruled that their actions were simultaneous!
So it could have been 61- 27. However, regardless of the inconsistent officiating, the All Blacks easily won this first game of three for the Bledisloe Cup.
A slow start then the flood gates open
The Wallabies had the better of the opening exchanges and look dangerous on attack, but the All Blacks defence held. Then in the ninth minute superb inter-passing between forwards and backs saw Liam Squire race in for a try in the corner.
Seven more tries followed in the next 38 minutes with Rieko Ioane featuring in three. He scored two himself and set up one for mercurial full back Damien McKenzie. Ioane, who was dropped for the third test against the Lions, was looking for work and showed great pace whenever he got the ball.
Aaron Smith whipped the ball out quickly to give the outside backs plenty of space, and the centres combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty took advantage of the opportunities to run freely and break the line.
The All Blacks forwards provided an excellent platform for the backs to cut loose, and often featured in back up roles and “pick and go” attacks. Liam Squire fully justified his selection in place of Jerome Kaino with some great runs down the flank.
The Wallabies fight back
The home side had more possession in the second half and experienced attackers Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale provided plenty of punch.
The latter pounced on a poor pass by McKenzie to scamper 70 metres for a try. Apart from the dubious try he was awarded, Folau was always a handful and made a brilliant break late in the game which nearly resulted in their fifth try.
The All Blacks definitely went off the boil for most of the second half and fell off some tackles. The coaches were probably guilty of making too many changes to the backline, too early.
However, with more ball to play with the Wallaby forwards had 30 minutes of ascendancy, well led by new skipper, Michael Hooper.
In the last 10 minutes the visitors came back and but for a forward pass Barnes did pick up, would have had a try on the right flank. Then Barrett was denied his charge-down ‘score’ and Kieran Read squandered a try-scoring opportunity by not releasing the ball fast enough from a scrum near the line and then did a stupid between-the-legs pass that went astray.
Nevertheless, it was a very decisive win to the All Blacks.
Next Saturday in Dunedin, the All Blacks, mindful of the way the Wallabies came back in the second half in Sydney, will not be complacent going into the second test.