It had been 35-years since the Wallabies had beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park and the Aussies did their best to serve it up to the home team.
Twenty minutes of All Blacks shock and awe was enough to continue a 35-year Wallabies losing streak at Eden Park as New Zealand took the early Bledisloe Cup points with a win that could serve as an entree to an even better main course next week.
There was a significant attacking fervour from the undaunted Australians who scored the final three tries and served notice that next week’s same-time, same-place encounter could demand more from the home team.
The late rally, however, plus an 80-minute powerhouse performance from captain Michael Hooper and an 18-9 penalty count in Australia’s favour, wasn’t enough to secure their first win against the Kiwis in Auckland since 1986.
Instead, the 33-25 score line came on the back of four Kiwi tries in just over 20 minutes starting with one right on the halftime whistle and followed by three more inside the first 20 minutes of the second half in a backline blitz.
“We’re finishing games well, that’s been the trend of our year, but we’re just not getting that start right,” Hooper said.
“If we could piece some more of the game together, a full 80, we‘ll be even more dangerous.”
Boasting a team with nine players who had featured in less than 10 tests each, the Wallabies were left to rue that one quarter of the match which brought a lot of good work, both in speedy attack and physical defence, undone.
A powerful and clinical All Blacks backline feasted on the energy-sapping work of the relentless forwards to expose the Wallabies out wide and break the game open.
They didn’t have the whole game on their terms, however, and there was a moment, with about five minutes to go before halftime, the Wallabies should have taken the lead.
Andrew Kellaway, making his Bledisloe Cup debut in place of the suspended Marika Koroibete, had been making a great fist of his first Wallabies start and scored his first try, and the first of the game.
But Noah Lolesio missed the conversion, something which, sadly, became a theme of the night where blustery conditions in Auckland forced teammates to serve as pseudo kicking tees and accuracy was hard to come by.
Lolesio missed three of four Wallabies try conversions, but even All Blacks superboot Richie Mo’unga missed two.
Instead of being 10-8 in the Wallabies favour, the scoreline turned pear-shaped minutes later, right on halftime, when Sevu Reece finished off a pile of strong All Blacks pushing to the line, with a pick-and-go to break Australian hearts.
It made the scoreline 16-8 at the main break, five Australian points blown away by the Eden Park wind, which added extra obstacles to a horror 35-year run of results for the Wallabies.
The wind was the least of the tourists’ problems in the second half, however.
What would have been the try of the year for the All Blacks, a 95m stunner which went from one end of the field to the other, from one side of the field to the other, and through seven hands, was disallowed by a forward pass halfway through the action.
But it was a signal of All Blacks intent, a signal of what the All Blacks could do, and a portent of what was to come.
Three tries, the first from a turnover with Australia working its way through possibly its best attacking phase of the match, resulted in an 85m try to Mo’unga.
Two more five-pointers followed in the next 10 minutes, and before the Wallabies could blink, the score was 33-8, and the Eden Park drought continued.
WALLABIES V ALL BLACKS
NEW ZEALAND 33
Tries: Reece, Mo’unga, Havili, McKenzie
Goals: Mo’unga 2/4
Penalty goals: Mo‘unga 3/3
Tries: Kellaway, Banks (2), Uelese
Goals: Lolesio 1/4
Penalty goals: Lolesio 1/4