WELLINGTON - Israel Dagg scored two tries as the All Blacks beat Australia 29-9 in their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday, which also ensured they retained the Bledisloe Cup for another year.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett also showcased his growing stature as the starting flyhalf with nine points from the boot and his all-around play drove his side around the field in a match that failed to reach the same heights as last week’s opener.
Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley slotted two penalties, while debutant Reece Hodge landed a monster penalty in the first half for the visitors, who rarely threatened on attack and lost their sixth successive match.
The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy since 2003 and only had to draw in Wellington to ensure it stayed locked in New Zealand Rugby’s trophy cabinet for another season.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said retaining the Bledisloe Cup was “an accomplishment we set out to do right from the start and to be able to do that was very pleasing.
“They threw everything at us as we knew they would and there was a bit of niggle. We just had to make sure we didn’t get caught up in it and kept our frustration tolerance high.”
Hansen’s side had hammered the Wallabies 42-8 last week in Sydney with a game of high pace and superb execution, and the Wallabies had promised they would perform better than they had at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
The only thing they did do better, however, was slow the pace of the All Blacks’ game with negative tactics, while they also antagonized the home team with several off-the-ball incidents.
The tactics worked to an extent, the All Blacks only led 15-9 at halftime courtesy of Dagg’s tries and a conversion and penalty to Barrett, while Foley and Hodge kicked penalties for the visitors.
The negative mindset, however, did result in main protagonist Adam Coleman receiving a yellow card for a dangerous charge on All Blacks fullback Ben Smith late in the first half.
The All Blacks did not score again while Coleman was off the field as the Wallabies slowed the pace even further, with the game at times descending into squabbles.
Julian Savea then gave his side some breathing space just after Coleman returned when Barrett’s blistering pace again exploited space in the Wallabies defense before Same Cane grabbed his side’s fourth try about 15 minutes later.
Australia’s many problems started at the set piece and it now faces a decision over whether it can continue with hooker and captain Stephen Moore, whose lineout throwing is a weakness. Problems throughout the backline will be more difficult to address.
“Our effort was better this week than last week so I’m proud of that,” Moore said. “Well done to New Zealand. They played well across the two games so they deserve it.
“We’re going through a difficult period so we have to stick tight and we have done that this week and we’ll continue to do that.”
Both sides now have a week off in the Rugby Championship before the All Blacks face Argentina in Hamilton on Sept. 10, while the Wallabies play South Africa in Brisbane.
The final match of the Bledisloe Cup, which is now a dead rubber, is in Auckland on Oct. 22.