For the 103rd time in 107 test matches, the New Zealand All Blacks won a match they led in at half time. The Wallabies couldn’t create pace often with their ball movement, and lost the 2012 Rugby Championship opener in Australia 19-27, simply looking inferior to the dominant world champions.
As in every test match in recent years between the sides, the opening belonged to the Aussies. Berrick Barnes opened the scoring with a penalty, but that’s when New Zealand started playing serious, at least for a short while, but quite enough to create an unbridgable gap for the rest of the match.
First it was Dan Carter with three points, finishing the day with 16 points and 5-6 from penalty kicks. Then came Israel Dagg with a brilliant try, coming from full back to the left wing as Horsea Gear cleared the way, while Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, like most of the match, served as decoys to channel the Australian defense elsewhere.
Every breakdown, every ruck, every maul. All Blacks players just moved quicker to the point of action and usually won the ball or simply won a penalty, with Carter’s sniper-like kicking giving them excellent field position time after time. After 32 minutes it was 16-3, as a wonderful passing move that began with Nonu, who once again combined with SBW to create space and allow comfortable offloads to Cory Jane on the right wing, while Digby Ioane showed some terrible defending and composure on the play on a bad performance from the Reds player.
Once again, the best team in the world simply shifted down a gear and let the Wallabies back in the match. Suddenly, Will Genia started moving the ball quicker because he had options to find while claiming the ball, and Barnes’ kicking while the Wallabies started approaching the match with a lot more intent led to better field position and eventually, a try from Nathan Sharpe, the 34 year old who is also the last Australia player to win the Bledisloe Cup, back in 2002.
Second half saw some fantastic kicking from Barnes, but once again, it wasn’t enough. The All Blacks turned it up whenever they felt the momentum slipping away from them, which must have felt quite frustrating for Australia, who cut back on their bad handling only to feel outclassed whenever the visitors felt like it.
The forward pack, led as always by Richie McCaw dominated whenever it was crucial and while a Barnes late penalty (75) gave Australia a glimmer of hope at 19-24, some excellent defending and a clever clearance from who else by Dagg led to a Dan Carter penalty that sealed the match.
The Wallabies don’t have a single player that could start for the All Blacks at the moment, and that pretty much says it all. When the two players you need to rise to the occasion – Kurtlye Beale and Digby Ioane, hardly show up and your two centres are outclassed during every moment of the match, losing by less than 7 is all you can aspire for. Australia didn’t get even that.