New Zealand 36-0 Australia: All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 17/08/19 11:42am
The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup and responded to last week's comprehensive loss to Australia with a resounding 36-0 success over the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday.
First-half tries from out-half Richie Mo'unga and scrum-half Aaron Smith were added to by Sonny Bill Williams, Sevu Reece and George Bridge scores in the second period as the reigning world champions illustrated their ruthlessly efficient nature.
The Wallabies, who were seeking a first Bledisloe Cup success since 2002 after last week's thrilling 47-26 win, failed to capitalise on promising scoring opportunities in the first half and made far too many basic errors in the rain in Auckland.
Ahead of the beginning of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, New Zealand have one more game as they face Tonga on September 7, while Australia host Samoa on the same day.
The All Blacks settled the quicker and had the lead as early as the fourth minute when a dominant scrum penalty was earned following an Izack Rodda knock on after a Dane Coles lineout overthrow, allowing Mo'unga to strike a sweet effort between the posts from just shy of 40 metres.
The Wallabies should have replied with points inside the first quarter but failed to as Marika Koroibete was first denied by a Bridge and Reece try-saving tackle, before Christian Lealiifano hit the post with a curling effort off the tee following a Sam Whitelock tackle off the ball.
Five minutes later, 13 phases of All Black defence deep in their own half saw Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale come within inches of touching down, but the Wallabies failed to get over - albeit they were playing on two penalty advantages.
When play was ended with a knock on, Lealiifano missed from close range after very poor execution with the boot.
Yet, for all Australia's pressure, the All Blacks would score the opening try just shy of the half-hour mark out of nothing.
With the visitors on the attack in midfield again and Reece Hodge on the overlap, Beale tried to move the ball quickly, but the pass was behind the wing and couldn't be held, allowing Kiwi out-half Mo'unga to scoop up the ball and scamper up the touchline unchallenged.
Barely three minutes later, the All Blacks demonstrated their ruthless nature as scrum-half Smith added a second try after a superb Bridge break up the left wing, searing between Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Hodge after Barrett had counter-attacked off a poor dribbling Lealiifano kick in open play up the middle of the pitch.
New Zealand hooker Dane Coles was sin-binned near the end of the first period for playing Nic White off the ball - grabbing the Wallabies scrum-half around the neck and throwing him like a rag-doll - but it wasn't to matter for the home side as Australia failed to register a point during his time off the park.
Into the second half, the All Blacks scored a third try courtesy of centre Williams off a set-piece scrum move when Ardie Savea broke off and fed Kieran Read inside, before Smith fed quick ball to an on-rushing Williams, who in turn showed great determination to reach the line with two Wallabies on his back.
Steve Hansen's charges would add two more scores on the day, as either wing got on the scoresheet.
On 66 minutes, Reece - who was a bundle of creative energy and pace all game - did well to reach a Jordie Barrett kick-through, hack on and accelerate to reach the ball first and ground it.
With three minutes left, Bridge - on his first Test start - added the cherry to an already healthy cake when Savea turned the ball over in the Wallabies 22, allowing possession to be shipped out to the left, with Anton Lienert-Brown offloading to the Crusaders wing, who checked inside to finish.