Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium is fast becoming Ellis Park to the All Blacks. There was a time when the All Blacks were always spooked when playing at Ellis Park. Now the ground that spooks them is Suncorp Stadium.
Saturday’s 24-22 defeat in Brisbane means the Wallabies have now won three and drawn one of their last five Tests against the All Blacks, who a week ago won the Bledisloe Cup with a record-breaking 43-5 win against the Wallabies in Sydney.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster made 10 changes, including two positional, and his team were beaten by a more structured Australian side, who played with greater commitment, conviction and rugby intelligence.
New Zealand scored a late try which made the game look a lot closer than it ever was in a final quarter totally dominated by the hosts.
Both teams lost players to red and yellow cards, but that had no bearing on the outcome.
Australia were the better team from the opening few minutes, while Foster certainly knows the identity of who is his first choice and second choice player in each position.
The All Blacks pack, individually and collectively, were always second to the Wallabies in the collisions. The superior aggression from Australia was not unexpected. The Wallabies were an embarrassment a week ago and needed to front. The All Blacks had secured the Bledisloe Cup and their coaching staff could argue that this was a match, that if lost, could be a victory long-term.
They’d know after Brisbane whether some players were good enough and if the All Blacks can actually just play for the jersey or if they need the added motivation of a trophy that matters. Some players aren’t good enough to win a World Cup.
What was very noticeable was the different approach from the All Blacks (in Sydney) to the All Blacks (in Brisbane). In Sydney, the All Blacks were structured, disciplined and played field percentages with near perfection. The kicking game of halfbacks Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga proved decisive in the win.
In Brisbane, so much happened haphazard behind the gainline.
There was no composure, no structure and the All Blacks display reminded me a lot of when they lost 36-34 to the Springboks in Wellington in 2018. The outside backs tried quick throw ins to no-one, one back threw a pass to another back in a worse position and rarely was there anything from Beauden Barrett, at No 10, to take hold of the game, calm it down and put the All Blacks in the right field position.
The discipline of the All Blacks was poor, with Scott Barrett’s brain implosion late in the match, the straw that finally broke the All Blacks. Barrett got carded, the Wallabies upped the heat and there was only going to be one winner in the final 10 minutes.
The All Blacks, after Sydney, were once again the talk of the rugby world. The beating against England just a year ago seemed to be forgotten, but Brisbane was an emphatic reminder that there is a decided difference between the first choice and second choice All Blacks, that the All Blacks pack is decent (at best) and that the debate should end as to who plays flyhalf for the All Blacks.
Mo’unga is the better Test flyhalf and Barrett is the better athlete.
Australia’s captain Michael Hooper deserved to finally get some reward against the All Blacks and Dave Rennie will sleep better knowing that he got a win against his fellow Kiwis in his first season in charge.
Questions have to be asked about the game management of the All Blacks when 14 played 13 in the first 10 minutes of the second half. I thought that Sam Cane, individually good, didn’t control that period as captain and veteran Sam Whitelock uncharacteristically made mistakes in big moments.
Australia’s resolve was there for the 80 minutes and no-one typified this more than winger Marika Koroibete. He was sensational, despite spending 10 mintues in the sin-bin, on a night when the result was pretty sensational for Australian rugby.
Wallabies – Tries: Tom Wright, Taniela Tupou. Conversion: Reece Hodge. Penalty: Hodge (4).
All Blacks – Tries: Rieko Ioane, Codie Taylor, Tupou Vaa’i. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (2). Penalty: Jordie Barrett.
Wallabies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lachlan Swinton 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Ned Hanigan, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
All Blacks – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Cullen Grace, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Will Jordan.