The All Blacks, as a collective, are some way off a top two team, but individually they still have enough genius to deliver knockout blows. Cue left winger Caleb Clarke, who in his first Test start was lethal as the All Blacks scored four tries to Australia’s one in an emphatic 27-7 win.
The All Blacks have not lost to Australia at Eden Park in Auckland since 1986 and haven’t lost at Eden Park since France won in the final minute in 1994. Sunday’s victory makes it 45 wins and two draws.
Australia couldn’t replicate the intensity or the physicality of the 16-all draw in Wellington a week ago and the All Blacks were decidedly more confrontational and physical.
Still, it needed the likes of Clarke and Beauden Barrett to break the Wallabies in a frantic five minute spell just after the break.
The All Blacks only led 10-7 after 40 minutes and the first half ended on the All Blacks tryline.
However the hosts finished off the Wallabies with back to back tries within 10 minutes of the restart.
Barrett was a constant menace in broken play and Clarke was industrious, energized and near unstoppable every time he got the ball.
He left the field in the 65th minute to a standing ovation. His attack run metres totaled 138 metres and he beat 16 defenders in the process. Only Barrett came close in run metres and defenders beaten.
Australia, competitive in the first half, never recovered from the All Blacks double try-whammy and as they lost confidence, the men in black grew in stature.
There is something in the Eden Park grass that agrees with the All Blacks and Clarke, playing just his second Test, is already a crowd favourite. Clarke’s father (Eroni) played 155 matches for Auckland and 10 Tests in the midfield for the All Blacks. He was a proud dad on Sunday.
The younger Clarke in an interview with Marc Hinton spoke of honouring the legacy of the No 11 jersey worn by the late Jonah Lomu.
And he did just this with some dazzling runs and by breaking so many tackles.
Individuals like Clarke, Barrett and Aaron Smith will always trouble the opposition and Eden Park, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, provided the perfect setting for attacking rugby.
The All Blacks were under pressure to produce a worthy performance after the 16-all draw in Wellington and the response was a quality one.
The Wallabies weren’t as switched on and in the final 20 minutes they were fractured and frail, with the only surprise being that they didn’t concede a few more tries.
All Blacks – Tries: Aaron Smith, Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Wallabies – Try: Marika Koroibete. Conv: James O’Connor.
All Blacks – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Damian McKenzie.
Wallabies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Jordan Petaia, 23 Reece Hodge.