Australia 47-26 New Zealand: Aussies punish All Blacks after Scott Barrett red card in Perth
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 10/08/19 4:08pm
Australia delivered a clinical performance to punish Scott Barrett's first-half red card and beat New Zealand 47-26 in the first Bledisloe Cup match of the year.
Barrett's sending-off arrived just before half-time in Perth, after an incident at the breakdown, and the ensuing penalty handed the Wallabies a 16-12 lead at the interval.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto commenced Australia's scoring in the second 40 minutes as they exploited the extra space and ran in five further tries to rack up a record tally against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
The victory sees Australia jump to the top of the standings in the Rugby Championship and puts them in a position to potentially win the competition for the first time since 2015. However, that would require South Africa losing to Argentina in Buenos Aires later on Saturday.
The Wallabies arrived in Perth off the back of a victory over Los Pumas and started with real vigour, dominating the possession and roaring into a 10-point advantage after Christian Lealiifano had opened their account off the tee.
The home side's try-scoring was kick-started by winger Reece Hodge as he benefited from the vision and handling of the returning James O'Connor.
From start to finish, O'Connor looked sharp and thoroughly at home on the international stage despite it being his first Test start for six years.
The utility back's one-handed ball control released Hodge down the left and the winger's blistering pace secured the first of the Wallabies' tries to create a 10-0 cushion.
New Zealand's response was a swift and strong one as they countered with two tries in four minutes.
First, Jack Goodhue had the vision to chip into the open space and despite a TMO review of the tussle between Michael Hopper and Kieran Read, Anton Lienert-Brown's grounding stood.
With the wind in their sails, New Zealand then highlighted the quality of their own offloading game as Dane Coles and Aaron Smith both produced excellent offloads in the build-up to Rieko Ioane's 23rd Test try of his career.
Richie Mo'unga was only able to convert one of the two before the next points arrived from his counterpart's boot as Lealiifano used his smooth action to edge Australia back ahead.
As half-time approached, the Wallabies held firmly onto their 13-12 cushion but with just moments to go before the break, the match's turning point arrived as Barrett was sent off.
Barrett's contact with Hopper at the breakdown was reviewed at length by referee Jerome Garces before the referee came to the decision that the lock's 'shoulder and elbow on the neck' was 'clearly dangerous, direct and with force'.
As a result, Garces said that a red card was his only option. Lealiifano then kicked the ensuing penalty against Barrett and the teams went back into the dressing room with Australia holding a 16-12 lead.
With Michael Cheika's words ringing in their ears, the Wallabies attacked the start of the second half with the same determination that they started the game with.
Scrum-half Nic White was driving their tempo, with O'Connor turning heads in the centres and Kurtley Beale's footwork coming to the fore against 14 men.
It took six minutes for their work to be rewarded, as New Zealand showed considerable fortitude in defence, but eventually a bullet pass out from White found Rory Arnold.
Arnold, another who has been building good form of late, flicked it on to his second-row partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and the latter delighted in his first Test try.
Despite responses from Beauden Barrett and Ngani Laumape, the rest of the match belonged to the Wallabies as they showed the fortitude to stave off any sign of an All Blacks comeback and dictated the match's conclusion in front of 61,241 fans.