7 Aug 2021

All Blacks too strong for Wallabies but have lots to work on

11:10 pm on 7 August 2021

The All Blacks produced a second-half blitzkrieg before conceding a string of late tries in a 33-25 win over Australia on a blustery night at Eden Park to take a 1-0 lead in the Bledisloe Cup.

Sevu Reece celebrates scoring a try.
All Blacks v Australia, Bledisloe Cup. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 7 August 2021.. © Copyright Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Jeremy Ward/Photosport Ltd 2021

Unbeaten at the Auckland venue since 1994, Ian Foster's side ran in three tries in a 13-minute burst after the break to kill off the contest with an awesome display of forward muscle and backline inspiration.

Wallabies fullback Tom Banks scored two late tries and Jordan Uelese grabbed another after the siren to give the visitors a flattering final scoreline.

The damage was done earlier as All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith celebrated his 100th test with a win and his team took a 1-0 lead in the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested by the trans-Tasman nations.

The All Blacks coach Ian Foster was pleased with the middle period of the test, but concedes the start and finish from his team were poor, leaving them with plenty to ponder ahead of next weekend's second test at the same ground.

"The first 15 we were overly excited I think, and gave them some free swings at us with our discipline," said Foster after a game his team led 33-8 with 16 minutes remaining.

"The last 15 we were disappointing in terms of the way we stepped off the pace. The middle 50 I was delighted with the composure and attitude, and at 33-8 we should have done better. But it's a Bledisloe Cup series, we've put a stake in the ground, we're 1-0 up and we're looking forward to next week."

Foster said the All Blacks conceding three unanswered tries to finish the game "kept life pretty interesting for a coach".

"It's the first test in a Bledisloe, and they were always going to be a massive test. They came over here very well prepared and threw everything at us," Foster said.

"The way we came back and really squeezed it was pleasing, and we were doing really well at 33-8. Then it was disappointing … we take a lot of pride in how we finish and we didn't finish that well.

"There are some things we'll take away and work on and people will talk about that all week. But at the end of the day it's 1-0, and we'll go into next week with a nice list of things to improve."

Foster's comments were echoed by the All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock.

"Discipline just allowed them back in the game so I'm sure this is going to be a big thing in the review on Monday," Whitelock said.

"We've got to make sure we carry the momentum going ahead."

Aaron Smith 100 caps.
All Blacks v Australia, Bledisloe Cup. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 7 August 2021.

Aaron Smith is presented with a special cap to mark his 100th test. Photo: Jeremy Ward/Photosport Ltd 2021

The All Blacks can seal the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th successive year with victory at the same venue next week, the clash doubling as the Rugby Championship opener.

"We're finishing well in games. That's been the trend," Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.

First-five Richie Mo'unga scored an intercept try in an 18-point game, while Sevu Reece, David Havili and Damian McKenzie also crossed for the home side.

Australia held the All Blacks at bay for much of the opening quarter but conceded three quick penalties to trail 9-0 before the half-hour mark.

The Wallabies rallied through a majestic lineout move, with inside centre Hunter Paisami latching onto a long throw and passing wide to winger Andrew Kellaway who charged into the left corner for the first try in the 36th minute.

Lolesio missed the conversion and the All Blacks responded fiercely.

All Blacks 1st-five Richie Mo'unga runs away to score a try during the 2021 Bledisloe Cup Test rugby match between the All Blacks and Australia held at Eden Park - Auckland - New Zealand.  07  August  2021

Photo: Brett Phibbs/Photosport Ltd 2021

After shoving the Wallabies over their line in a maul, the All Blacks scored their first try on the stroke of halftime through winger Reece, with Mo'unga booting the conversion to stretch the lead to 16-8.

Five minutes after the restart, the Wallabies were relieved after what looked like a stunning length-of-the-field try to Reece was ruled out on video review when it confirmed Smith had hit Brodie Retallick with a forward pass.

The Wallabies then slumped in self-inflicted agony, as Lolesio missed a penalty and Mo'unga gleefully galloped 80 metres for an intercept try after a high-risk pass by Paisami.

The match was all but over before the fourth quarter, as the All Blacks' forwards stormed towards the line and Smith flicked a bullet pass wide to inside centre Havili, who planted the ball over the line to put the home side 28-8 up.

Smith produced a near-carbon copy of Havili's try, setting up fullback McKenzie in the same corner as the All Blacks led 33-8, before the Wallabies' late rally of three unanswered tries.

The Wallabies finished the stronger of the two teams and coach Dave Rennie was pleased with his side's efforts.

"We've seen that throughout the French series, so it was good to see," Rennie said.

"We applied a lot of pressure. We gave up a soft one before half-time, gave up an intercept (try) not long after halftime and the All Blacks were able to steal a bit of momentum there.

"But we finished strong, we knew there would be space behind them, but unfortunately with the intercept, we go back short side and put it behind and maybe we score.

"We're really happy with the impact we got off the bench, I'm really happy with the character.

"Last year in Sydney we got behind a bit and started throwing things out our backside, chasing the game early and got absolutely hammered (losing 43-5). So that was a positive, but we're still pretty disappointed."

- Reuters/RNZ