Nobody saw the Wallabies’ tenacious effort in the first Bledisloe clash coming – especially the New Zealand media.
Suffice to say Dave Rennie’s young Australian side surprised pretty much everybody across the ditch and go into this Sunday’s clash filled with confidence knowing they were a goal post away from pulling off a huge upset.
The Aussies almost came away with an unlikely victory but extra time couldn’t split the sides with the first match finishing 16-all.
You’d be hard pressed to find anything positive said about Rugby Australia and the Wallabies following their ugly stoush with NZ Rugby.
But a strong performance from the Wallabies was hard to ignore. The Wallabies enjoyed more territory and possession in challenging conditions, controlling the ball and kicking cleverly.
All Blacks perform stirring Haka
NZ Herald Sports writer Liam Napier was full of praise for Australia and new coach Dave Rennie, suggesting the Kiwi coach’s fingerprints are all over the revamped side:
“The Wallabies will take great heart from a performance in which they went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks throughout,” he wrote.
“Rennie’s influence was evident in the workrate Wallabies forward pack.
“The Wallabies will certainly be more pleased of the two teams in what was a largely scrappy spectacle.”
Stuff.co.nz writer Aaron Goile went a step further, declaring the Wallabies will no longer be pushovers and the Bledisloe Cup is back in business.
Goile wrote: “No more pushovers, it seems. No backward steps. Thank one man for that.
“It took all of two minutes to see Rennie’s fingerprints all over the Wallabies’ work – both with and without possession.
“Patient with ball in hand – a Rennie favourite is to be prepared to ‘go one more phase’ – and on defence they were up off the line fast and physical in their presence. There was also some classic off-the-ball niggle.
“There was just some better clarity and determination in their [Wallabies’] work, and that comes back to the coach … with one almighty performance, the Wallabies have ensured on-field relations have a whole new breath of fire. And there can be no doubt about who was at the centre of all that.”
Gregor Paul wrote in the NZ Herald: “A Wallabies side that was full of good ideas, slick execution and more tenacity than they have brought to New Zealand in an age.”
He added: “The Wallabies should feel like they lost. This was a test they should have won. They were the better team, controlled the ball better and they had the All Blacks in trouble.
“They just couldn’t pull the trigger and find a way to finish them off and that, in the context of the series, could cost them.”
Paul highlighted Australia’s lack of execution close to the All Blacks’ tryline.
He wrote: “the Wallabies had a flow and confidence about them, precisely until they got within touching distance of the All Blacks’ tryline.
“That was when they started to get a bit jittery and they were as much as their enemy as the All Blacks when it came to converting opportunities.”
While the praise for Australia was free-flowing, the home side copped its fair share of criticism for its poor showing.
Napier wrote: “In their first outing since the disappointment of the World Cup almost one year ago it was far from a polished performance from the All Blacks.
“Daugunu exposed their right-side defence on several occasions. The All Blacks’ kick-off receptions were sloppy, and they made errors under the high ball, admittedly in difficult conditions with swirling wind gusting up 90km/h.”