Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Wallabies find little joy in loss

Liam Messam of the All Blacks in action last night. Photo / Getty Images
Liam Messam of the All Blacks in action last night. Photo / Getty Images

Australia 19
New Zealand 27

More worrying for the Wallabies than the physical pounding they took last night is that their reasons for optimism stood at zero by the end of the game.

New Zealand had it easy - despite the scoreline and the late blast from the Wallabies. New Zealand owned the gainline. They owned the Australians at the collisions. Hit them hard in front of the line and buried them - not letting them have one easy inch.

Rugby these days is a game of momentum and the All Blacks denied Australia on that front all night. Strangely, they didn't need to wind up their scrummaging and get the annihilation done there - they were so dominant everywhere else that it had the same effect: the Wallabies were forced to run laterally, to kick badly and to spend much of the game scrambling backwards.

David Pocock might have been playing - it was hard to tell. Will Genia was, but he could only make it known in flashes and with those two shut down, the Wallabies had nowhere to go: nothing to offer.

They actually hung in for a surprisingly long time, but that was more to do with sloppy All Black finishing. The lack of game time enjoyed by some players was obvious at times: there were plenty of points squandered - poor handling and occasional poor decision-making the causes.

That's the big worry for the Wallabies: the All Blacks can fix that easily enough. The mistakes will drop out next week in Auckland with a game in the system now. But what of the Wallabies? Can they fix their chronic lack of physicality? Can they somehow find the aggression, linespeed and brutality that were never on show last night?

And more worrying still was the way the All Blacks slowly found their rhythm and never let the tempo slip. Richie McCaw made his presence felt with his ball carries.

Kieran Read, albeit from an offside position, snapped Pocock in two with a thunderous tackle.

Aaron Smith fired snappy passes the breadth of the field. Dan Carter was in charge of everything - the Lord Mayor of Sydney and Israel Dagg came alive - his bounce and step were all there.

Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu didn't get into the game much - and everyone should be fearful for the Wallabies if they do.

The threat, though, became more impressive than the actual. For all the territory and possession the All Blacks enjoyed, they didn't make it count the way they should have on the scoreboard.

They didn't get out of third gear and yet still finished the game with the Wallabies in their pocket and with all the confidence, poise and clarity of a recovering alcoholic. The home side coughed the game up like a cat ejecting a giant fur ball: they heaved, wretched and then quite spectacularly rid themselves of any any hope. They were awful: Berrick Barnes was hesitant and conservative - a mix with all the class of Irn Bru and single malt.

Kurtley Beale pretty much handed the game over on his own. He flopped at Dagg's feet with no commitment after the fullback was set free by a clever move that saw Carter use his giant midfield as decoy runners.

As clever as it was, Dagg still had no business scoring as easily as he did - a ghost would have put a better shot on than Beale managed. The ghost would have at least said boo.

There were more antics from the Wallaby fullback towards the end of the half when he took his eye off a simple Genia pass to knock on five metres from his own line and not an All Black soul in the vicinity.

Another slick move from the All Blacks sent the ball flat across the line - helped by a superb mid-air take-and-give from Dagg - to put Cory Jane in at the corner.

Collapse felt like it was imminent and the crowd cheered Nathan Sharpe's try just before the buzzer more out of habit than any conviction it was signalling a revival.

The final 40 minutes was about Australia seeing how long they could hold on: about making sure they kept things respectable. They managed it but they managed it without offering any real attacking threat or any conviction that they believed in themselves.

And that's the tragic thing with where they are right now - believing in themselves less than even a sceptical public.

Australia 19 (N. Sharpe try; B. Barnes con, 4 pens) New Zealand 27 (I. Dagg, C. Jane tries; D. Carter con, 5 pens). Halftime: 18-10.

- Herald on Sunday

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