18 Oct 2020

Clarke stars as storming second half earns All Blacks win

9:53 pm on 18 October 2020

Two second-half tries in five minutes have set up the All Blacks for a 27-7 win in the the second Bledisloe Cup test against Australia at Eden Park in Auckland.

All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke

All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke Photo: Photosport

The New Zealanders opened out an early 10-0 lead, a Richie Mo'ounga penalty boosted by halfback Aason Smith's converted try after 22 minutes.

But the Australians hit back through winger Marika Koroibete as the half-hour mark approached, and the All Blacks could only take a narrow 10-7 lead into the break.

It took only two minutes after the restart for fullback Jordie Barrett to add to the New Zealand tally, after the All Blacks showed patience and timing before finding space to score out wide.

Another three minutes, and Ardie Savea powered over to finish a sparkling run from Caleb Clarke.

Ahead 20-7, the All Blacks withstood some intense pressure, holding up Koroibete over the line to deny the Wallabies before a potential try to hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa was disallowed for a double movement.

Skipper Sam Cane scored from a midfield turnover, and at 27-7 ahead, the All Blacks looked comfortable in maintaining control until the final whistle.

Coach Ian Foster's decision to rejig his backline paid dividends as the hosts snatched the advantage in the four-match series.

Foster brought Clarke in for his first start on the left wing, was able to select a fit again Beauden Barrett at fullback and restored a more balanced and experienced midfield pairing in Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown.

The result was far more attacking display from the side that drew 16-16 in the first game in Wellington, with Clarke's performance in particular threatening to sweep away news of Saturday's general election.

Wearing the number 11 jersey that was immortalised by Jonah Lomu in the 1990s, Clarke's powerful running electrified the 46,049-strong crowd as he set up tries to Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea within the space of three second-half minutes.

"He is an uncomplicated individual," Foster told reporters about the 21-year-old. "He has great self-awareness of who he is. He knows what he's good at on the rugby park and he just believes in it.

"He just wants the ball and to run hard. It's quite a good thing for us to give him the ball and let him run hard."

Foster added that Beauden Barrett had "showed his class" in his decision making after missing last week's game with an Achilles injury and the 29-year-old was almost as devastating as Clarke with the ball in hand.

A cleverly weighted kick by Barrett also set up the attacking scrum from which Aaron Smith scored his first half try.

"He brought a lot of confidence to the players and I think there is more to come from him," Foster added of the two-times World Player of the Year.

"He's a great influence on this team."