The All Blacks’s forwards responded to criticism of their performance in their opening Rugby Championship clash to set the foundation for a 51-20 victory over Australia at Eden Park.
Steve Hansen and the All Blacks squad had clearly talked the talk this week, and walked the walk as a side “reacting as if we had lost” came out and unleashed their full fury on a Wallabies team that did well to compile 20 points.
That is not to suggest that the Australians played badly, but everything that worked in Sydney imploded in Auckland, and New Zealand were by and large impeccable.
As it was against England, this blue ribbon standard came not from anything rugby specific, but the fact that any mistakes or chinks were swiftly rectified.
The ‘lack of efforts’ from the tight five in Sydney transformed with startling effectiveness, the big men of the All Blacks showcased that brand of rugby that has been a mainstay of New Zealand rugby since time (rugby time at least) began.
The ability of the tight five to move the ball around with the same deftness as the backs.
Number eight Kieran Read said that this was important and a goal from the team.
“We needed our forward pack, especially that front five, to lay that platform,” he said, the reigning IRB World Player of the Year beamed when asked about the 51 points scored by the All Blacks.
“Yeah it was awesome…to win the Bledisloe and put 50 on is a massive effort.”
Early in the match the intent of the World Champions was obvious, looking at playing the game at extreme speed, but equally from the off it was clear that the home team were looking at putting some extra sting in their hits.
This was a team without Dan Carter, Tony Woodcock, and as of last week Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu, but you would not have known it.
First five-eighth Aaron Cruden, putting in the sort of performance to remind all and sundry why he is the current kingpin, knocked over three penalties in the first 17 minutes, while Kurtley Beale responded with two of his own.
In this time All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was sent off, to the howls of the crowd and the almost curious reflections from social media and the commentators.
It would be 3-3 apiece while the skipper was off.
Despite the clash featuring no scrums in the first quarter, a series of set pieces on the Wallabies line were dominated by New Zealand with demoralising effect.
The first scrum of the game saw the All Blacks shove the Wallabies backwards, and in the 28th minute the hosts claimed a penalty try to make it 16-6 after Cruden’s conversion.
The final ten minutes of the second half saw The Investec Rugby Championship holders continue to savage the tourist’s line, but while Australia held out, they were kept constantly on the back foot by the hosts who had a 23-6 lead at halftime.
Some had suggested that the All Blacks weakness has been the inability to maintain their standards over 80 minutes, but the second half proved this to be nothing more than theory.
Kieran Read would score in the 49th minute as the procession continued.
The number eight was back to his old self, Cruden was playing conductor with class, while Eden Park, the great citadel of New Zealand Rugby, has now been unconquered for 20 years.
In the following seven minutes McCaw would emphatically atone for his sinbinning.
Sam Whitelock, immense alongside Brodie Retallick, fired the last pass to his captain for his first try, and six minutes later the most capped All Black in history would score his second.
Two quick tries to the Wallabies via Israel Folau and Michael Hooper would have produced mixed feelings, the Australians produced no celebrations while the hosts were clearly frustrated with the turn of events.
They did however prove them to be temporary when Steven Luatua scored his first All Blacks try, in the process giving New Zealand their biggest ever victory against the Wallabies in New Zealand.
Australian coach Ewen McKenzie suggested his team should have known what was coming.
“It is stuff we have seen,” he said, but was more critical of his team’s efforts with the boot.
“It wasn’t where we were supposed to be kicking the ball.”
The All Blacks have retained the Bledisloe Cup and will face Argentina at McLean Park in Napier on September 6, while the Wallabies will playing the Springboks in Perth.
This was the 151st Test between the two nations, with the New Zealand recording their 103rd win.