Bledisloe recap: garbage first half but All Blacks get it done

6:52 am on 8 August 2021

Opinion - Much has been made of the Wallabies' woes at Eden Park, with their last win there coming just a few months after the Chernobyl disaster. Since then, it's been a series of disasters of sorts for them in Auckland, but in the silver linings department at least last night they managed to rack up their highest points total there in 15 years. The only issue was the majority of them came after the All Blacks had put the game out of reach.

Sevu Reece.
All Blacks v Australia, Bledisloe Cup. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 7 August 2021.. © Copyright Photo: Jeremy Ward /

Photo: © Copyright Jeremy Ward / Photosport Ltd 2021

Last night's 33-25 win to the All Blacks gave them a firm grip on the Bledisloe Cup once again, which is ironic considering the best result for NZ Rugby would have been a Wallabies win. That would have heightened the tension like the first test draw did last year, ensuring another bumper crowd for next weekend's return match. The decision to play both of these tests at the country's biggest ground is a pragmatic one, given the very high likelihood of them being the only ones held on NZ soil this season, so next weekend needs a bit of intrigue to draw another 47,000 in.

The Wallabies showed at least in the first half they have the players to run with the All Blacks, but not the experience or street smarts to make it over the finish line in first place. They were gifted an astounding 18 penalties in the match, more than enough for them to win it as it was double what they gave back to the All Blacks. That count contributed to a horrifically dull first half, in which it became clear that looking down our noses at the turgid British & Irish Lions v Springboks series going on right now probably wasn't the best idea.

The first 20 minutes in particular were particularly frustrating as neither side seemed able to hold onto the ball for longer than a couple of phases while set pieces were blighted by the blast of Paul Williams' whistle. It was, in a word, awful and Andrew Kellaway's blistering try after 36 minutes went a long way to waking a lot of the crowd up. It seemed by that stage they were so disengaged they hadn't even bothered to start a Mexican Wave.

So it was a bit of a relief when the halftime whistle finally came, because at least we knew that the All Blacks would get some sort of rocket at halftime. Whatever was said, it worked - three tries in 15 minutes and another brilliant team effort rubbed out by the TMO saw the game over as a contest with the score 33-8. Then back came the Wallabies with a gallant yet fruitless effort that at least yielded some questions post match about whether they could take that momentum into next weekend.

The problem with this match was that when it was close it was boring, so if the Wallabies do hope to get one over the All Blacks next weekend they'll probably resort to trench warfare to do it. That's a hard sell. It was telling that the highly rated Jordan Petaia was largely anonymous during the test, if anything it'll be his neck on the line now that Marika Koroibete is back in the frame for selection and Kellaway was probably the Wallabies' best player.

At least the win was a fitting way to celebrate Aaron Smith's 100th test match, after which he was presented with his silver cap by his former captain Kieran Read in front of some lit up numbers like the ones you see at an Instagram oversharer's birthday party. Smith was genuinely delightful post match as he talked about his childhood friendship with Samuel Whitelock carrying on to see them become test centurions. Whitelock had told us the story of the day they'd first met, when Smith asked him on the first day of school if he was attending Feilding High School, to which Whitelock observed their identical school uniforms and gruffly replied "well of course I am".

It is a remarkable story that both men started from that comical moment to be where they are today, standing next to each other after yet another test win.