New Zealand Muscle Past Australia In Wellington’s Westpac
Although it was a vast improvement on last week’s thumping, Australia still couldn’t come up with a game plan to bring the Bledisloe Cup home. Tom Taylor’s debut was a game worth remembering, with the outhalf netting 14 of his side’s 27 points.
The game started with plenty of mistakes coming from both sides, with a charge down on a Will Genia clearance setting the tone for the world’s number one scrum half. The first few minutes were fraught with knock-ons, loose passes, charge downs and missed tackles but the scrappy game seemed to suit the Wallabies and, for the opening 25 minutes, they seemed happy to have dragged the All Blacks into a dogfight.
Two penalties from the boot of Leali’ifano were all that separated the teams after 25 minutes. Taylor had a chance to even the scores eleven minutes in but pulled his effort horribly to the left. Australia’s Stephen Moore can also feel hard done by as he seemed to have touched down for the opening try, but the TMO was not called upon. Instead, the ball was cleared after a resulting scrum.
It was inevitable that New Zealand would impose their own pace onto the game. That came after the 26th minute when Ben Smith crossed the whitewash for his 4th try of the Rugby Championship campaign. Great hands from both Conrad Smith and Steven Luatua sent Smith racing up the wing to the try line to dot down. Although Taylor couldn’t add the extras, this was the moment the All Blacks brought the intensity up a level.
Australia’s James Slipper was substituted eight minutes later following two knocks from Ma’a Nonu, the first hit being a shoulder charge by the first centre. Nonu made no attempt to wrap his arms in the tackle and New Zealand were lucky not to be down to 14 men for ten minutes. However the second knock was a result of poor tackling technique, with Slipper driving his head into Nonu’s hip whilst tackling.
A penalty for Taylor in the 36th minute put some light between the teams before another try from the winger of the moment, Smith, left nine points between the teams at the break when he crossed for his fifth try of the campaign.
Whatever promise Australia showed in the first half, however, was not brought forward. They not only lacked both discipline and imagination, but showed an inability to change a game plan that was clearly not troubling the Kiwis, with Jesse Mogg being the main culprit. The Aussie fullback refused to counter attack or run the ball and seemed content to just boot the ball back into the Kiwi half, sometimes without direction and sometimes without even chasing it himself. Surely Mogg cannot expect to start in a fortnight’s time, as that was not a performance deemed worthy of a Test match.
Another Taylor penalty put twelve points between them before the 100-cap-winning Woodcock made his exit after a brilliant hour’s work. The veteran prop was extremely powerful in the set pieces (bar one mistake in the lineout) and totally dominated his opposite man in the scrum. Aussies Ashley-Cooper and Mowen also exited soon after, but their contributions were nowhere near as positive as Woodcock’s.
Another penalty from the débutante Taylor extended the difference to fifteen before Folau intercepted a poor Nonu pass and raced sixty meters to touch down and give some hope to the Wallabies. Leali’ifano’s conversion lessened the difference to just eight, but a penalty from the boot of Dagg put the Kiwis in front by eleven.
Both teams made a number of changes near the end, with Moore and Genia coming off for Fainga’a and White, and Nonu and Taylor coming off for Slade and the previously blood-subbed Ben Smith. The All Blacks showed enough class and composure to finish out the game, with McCaw brilliantly claiming the restart. The game finished just after the horn, with Sam Cane putting the ball out after a good day’s work by the All Blacks.
Australia can feel hard done by, with the Nonu incident not being the only professional offence of the game deemed worthy of a sinbinning. Aaron Smith should have been binned for a professional foul on the Kiwi’s try line in the first half but wasn’t, much to the annoyance of skipper James Horwill. Australia surely would have scored off the resulting phase and perhaps referee Jaco Peyper could have awarded a penalty try. But Australia showed their lack of finishing when they couldn’t capitalise on a 70 meter break by James O’Connor in the second half. 16 conceded penalties was a massive obstacle to overcome for the men in gold. McKenzie will be pleased with his team’s first half effort, but will have plenty to work on in regards discipline before facing South Africa in Brisbane in a fortnight’s time.