The All Blacks seized their 18th straight Bledisloe Cup, with a record breaking 43-5 win against Australia. But the significance of the win was as much the style in which it was won as the fact that it was won.
It was generally expected that the All Blacks would claim Bledisloe victory, but perhaps not as emphatically as they did. The six tries scored by the New Zealanders, and the two disallowed, were testament to the style of play that has allowed All Blacks rugby to remain at the top of the world for so many years.
There is the perception that the All Blacks are an all-running, all-expansive side, and that there is not enough of an emphasis on kicking or defence. Wrong. Typical All Black success, as shown in Sydney on Saturday against Australia, is a product mainly of their defensive pressure and tactical kicking. The majority of the All Blacks’ tries were born from Australian error, forced by defensive pressure and tactical kicking.
The possession over the 80 minutes was pretty much evenly stacked (58/42% in favour of the All Blacks) yet the All Blacks kicked 29 times out of hand in comparison to Australia’s 15 and amassed 756 kicking metres to the Aussies 355. The New Zealanders also dominated the set pieces winning seven scrums to the Aussie three and 15 lineouts over the Australian’s 11
All Blacks assistant coach and forward specialist John Plumtree recently spoke of how essential it was that the All Blacks forwards fronted physically and the key to any successful All Blacks team was a pack that was more mongrel than magical.
The All Blacks forwards at the 2019 World Cup were dismantled by England in the semi-final. It was an emphatic beating and Plumtree, three Tests into his partnership with head coach Ian Foster, has already started to show his influence.
Plumtree’s teams have always been tough buggers up front. The Sharks, during the decade Plumtree was head coach, were one of the most physical teams and when Plumtree took over at the Hurricanes he transformed the forwards as a collective.
The All Blacks, in Auckland and in Sydney, scored 70 points and conceded just 12 against Dave Rennie’s Wallabies. They scored brilliant counter attacking tries in both matches, but what was most impressive about the 43-5 win was the set piece control and the field position game management.
Richie Mo’unga, after two indifferent performances in Wellington and Auckland, played his best match of the international season in Sydney. Mo’unga is a very different type of flyhalf to Beauden Barrett and his skill set also gives the All Blacks greater structure. Barrett is among the most explosive players and one of the finest athletes but Mo’unga’s line-kicking game has always been critical to the best performances from the Crusaders over the past three years. In Sydney, he finally converted his Super Rugby form into a match-winning Test display.
Mo’unga and scrumhalf Aaron Smith kicked with authority and the potency of their kicking game was complimented through those players chasing the kicks.
Mo’unga, who scored two tries, also kicked five conversions and a penalty for 23 points.