All Blacks complete Bledisloe Cup clean sweep

by Sam Phillips

So close yet so far.

The Wallabies have fallen 37-20 to the All Blacks in Yokohama despite a vastly improved performance from their first two Bledisloe showings of the year.

Let's start with the positives.

The Australian attack might just be back.

Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau and when he came on, Samu Kerevi, all caused serious headaches for the All Blacks.

They were allowed to flourish because of the work of their pack.

Michael Hooper was at his high work rate best, Ned Hanigan had his best game of the year, Folau Faingaa his most industrious start in Wallaby gold and Rob Simmons clearly responded to Michael Cheika's challenge.

The Wallabies stared the haka down. Photo: WalmsleyHe had his best game in recent memory and later, Jack Dempsey, had a couple of nice leg pumping, line bending carries.

Each of Dempsey, Kerevi and Naivalu should be starting for the remainder of the Spring Tour.

But while the line breaks and subsequent pressure in New Zealand's 22 was a constant, the ability to turn that pressure into points remains a struggle.

Pushed passes when players hit the deck or are in unenviable positions through contact are killing this team.

Ben Smith's intercept try which put the final nail in the Australian coffin was created by a Folau pass which should never, ever be thrown.

Yes, the Australians were chasing the game but more patience in that space will do this team wonders.

When they hold the ball they can cause proper defensive headaches for the world's best team.

Both Sefa Naivalu and Israel Folau scored wonderful tries off the back of sustained, clinical football.

All of that said, some glaring weaknesses remain.

Defence in broken play is still a significant issue, as is the lineout.

David Pocock was at his best in Yokohama. Photo: WalmsleyTolu Latu's yellow card in the 66th minute was soft yet avoidable and some basic ball handling errors hurt to watch.

Onto the game.

The first half in Sydney, Auckland and on Saturday, Yokohama, all had a similar feel to them.

The Wallabies were able to slow the game down and defended quite well, tries to Liam Squire and Kieran Read coming at the end of five minute patches in which the All Blacks did not leave the Australian 22.

The attack looked dangerous and was caused genuine headaches for the world champions.

Had a risky pass or two gone to hand or if Dane Haylett-Petty was able to reach out and draw first blood in the second minute they would have gone into the break all square or better still, in front.

That tone was set by Folau in the opening minute.

He fielded the first clearing kick of the match and instead of looking to punt the ball back he pinned the ears back, split the line - only for Haylett-Petty to be bundled into touch 30 seconds later.

There was more of that to come for the remainder of the first half when the Wallabies found their hands on the football.

Barrett was at his devastating best. Photo: WalmsleyThat culminated in a much needed try to Naivalu moments before the half time siren sounded.

Both Beale - who slotted a 45 metre penalty to put the Wallabies on the board in the 21st minute - and Foley attacked the line, found willing ball carriers in Hooper and Hanigan.

The attack was rolling and found its way to the left edge where Naivalu used every bit of strength he's built up in the near on 500 days between Tests to power over the line.

Before Naivalu's five pointer it was the well oiled All Blacks machine which manufactured 17 points.

Squire's try was the result of some quick ball and gut busting sideline to sideline attack which had the Australians out on their feet.

Read's was a touch softer, falling over from a scrum five out after more extended pressure in the Wallabies' red zone.

The Australian attack threatened once more when play resumed.

Some superb hands from Faingaa - who played his best match in gold - put Sio through a hole but scrambling Kiwi defence saved the day before Rodda dropped the ball cold seven out from the line.

A clearing kick followed but Folau set off from the back, Hooper split the line and the All Blacks were frantically defending their line again.

This time Rob Simmons was held up under the posts, Hooper pointing to the sticks and Foley duly slotting the simple shot at goal.

The next line break was Foley's doing.

He dummied, jinked and split the line clean but his support, Will Genia, was pulled down the moment he caught the ball.

This time Naivalu knocked a Folau pass on and the All Blacks went down the other end and slotted three points.

With the score poised at 20-13 with 25 to play coach Michael Cheika brought on his reinforcements.

Sekope Kepu entered the fray for his 100th Test, Jack Dempsey came on for his first Test minutes in 12 months and Samu Kerevi slotted into the centres.

But when Barrett switched the point of the attack from 60 out to give Rieko Ioane a full head of steam and offered his own jet shoes as a vehicle of support, he streaked away to score what would be the decisive blow.

Smith's intercept try was followed by a well worked five pointer for Folau, Ioane scoring the consolation try at the death.

Different Test, same result.

There are signs of a team regaining confidence every time they step out but they are still short of the world's best.

Wales, England and Italy await.


Wallabies 20

Tries: Naivalu, Folau

Cons: Foley 2

Pens: Beale, Foley

All Blacks 37

Tries: Squire, Read, B Barrett, Smith, Ioane

Cons: Barrett 3

Pens: Barrett 2