The All Blacks have once again put the Wallabies to the sword to draw first blood in the 2018 Bledisloe Cup series with a crushing 38-13 victory at ANZ Stadium.
Five All Blacks second-half tries stunned the Wallabies, who now face the daunting prospect of needing to win in Auckland next Saturday for the first time since 1986 to prevent the trophy staying in New Zealand for a 16th straight year.
Compounding Australia’s pain was a leg injury to superstar fullback Israel Folau, who cut a dejected figure as he hobbled off after 65 minutes after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge.
The Wallabies suffered a setback even before the kick-off, with powerhouse prop Taniela Tupou ruled out after straining his hamstring during Friday’s captain’s run, replaced by uncapped Melbourne Rebel Jermaine Ainsley.
The All Blacks suffered their own first-half blow, with centre Ryan Crotty concussed in the 13th minute after clashing heads with teammate Beauden Barrett.
Australia’s set piece looked shaky early, with the Wallabies losing their first two lineouts and collapsing the opening scrum of the night.
But after steadying, the Wallabies dominated much of the first half through stern defence, with penalty goals from Reece Hodge and Bernard Foley earning the hosts a well-deserved 6-0 lead.
The Wallabies were 90 seconds away from keeping the All Blacks scoreless in the opening half of Test for the first time since the 1991 World Cup semi-final before halfback Aaron Smith crossed just before the interval.
Despite the late lapse, Michael Cheika’s men enjoyed a 6-5 advantage at the break – after trudging to the same sheds trailing 40-6 at halftime in last year’s corresponding fixture.
But the match turned with two signature All Blacks strikes early in the second stanza.
First, Jack Goodhue finished off an 85-metre counter-attack, then Beauden Barrett showcased his soccer skills to score a telling opportunistic try nine minutes later to suddenly leave the world champions 19-6 clear.
It was all over when man-of-the-match Brodie Retallick crossed to make it 26-6.
The highlight of an otherwise forgettable night for Wallabies fans was a try on debut for young gun Jack Maddocks, a second-half replacement for winger Dane Haylett-Petty.
But a late double to All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo completed the humiliation for the Wallabies in front of 66,318 fans at the Olympic stadium.
(Source:TVNZ One News)