New Zealand big winners in Rugby Championship opener despite Australia fightback


Even before it was announced at the end of last week that the Western Force are leaving Super Rugby, with a legal resolution still some way off, this year's domestic results, combined with a Wallabies defeat to Scotland in June, have set off screeching alarm bells.

The Wallabies' hopes of regaining the Bledisloe Cup were all but dashed after a shocking first half against the All Blacks before they managed to salvage some pride in a freakish 54-34 defeat in Sydney.

After revelations emerged overnight regarding his personal life, Jerome Kaino was sent home from Australia overnight with the flanker was replaced by Liam Squire in the blindside role for New Zealand. Remove those matches from the equation and they won six out of eight, in a year when Michael Cheika handed out new Test caps at a rate of knots.

New Zealand's inability to put away the British and Irish Lions in their drawn home series last month had raised doubts whether the All Blacks' era of dominance was on the wane.

The All Blacks cleared the bench with the game seemingly sewn up and a small error near halfway after a good hit from Rona saw Beale swoop on the crumbs and run 50 metres to the line for the Wallabies third try and put some sort of respectability in the scoreline at 54-27.

Kaino, 34, a two-time World Cup winning All Black, was a surprise omission from the match-day 23 when the New Zealand Test team was named on Thursday.

The All Blacks were exceptional in the first half in Sydney and, with the help of three tries in seven minutes, stormed to a 40-6 lead at half-time.

New Zealand's No 8 Kieran Read shakes hands with Australia's substitute Lopeti Timani after their Rugby Championship Test match in Sydney
New Zealand big winners in Rugby Championship opener despite Australia fightback

While the Australians looked promising in attack they were clueless in defence with the world champions looking capable of scoring in every attacking phase.

Bernard Foley kicked the Wallabies to trail by a point with a 17th-minute penalty after the All Blacks scrum was penalised.

Crotty then took a delightful short pass from Barrett to register his first try and surged through a huge hole in the Wallabies defence to go over again after Sonny Bill Williams had also scored.

The All Blacks might have surpassed 60 points with a late try to Beauden Barrett but the score was overruled by the television official. Barrett's conversion had the All Blacks with a point a minute at 26-6.

Its grip on the match became more emphatic when McKenzie scored a brilliant try in the third minute of the second half, then winger Ben Smith added another from a break by Squire.

Coach Michael Cheika, though, stunningly said he had no problem with his side's attack after four tries from Curtis Rona, Israel Folau, Tevita Kuridrani and Kurtley Beale saved the Wallabies from their biggest-ever loss to the All Blacks.

The All Blacks continued their domination of the Wallabies and have lost only three of their last 30 encounters.

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