Australia’s Bledisloe Cup hopes lay in tatters after a crushing 42-8 loss to the All Blacks in Saturday night’s Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
The rampant world champions piled on six tries to one in an attacking masterclass at ANZ Stadium to romp to their biggest win over the Wallabies on Australian soil in 113 years.
The shellshocked Wallabies were dominated in every facet, with the scrum and lineout malfunctioning, the breakdown ravaged and bodies broken in a disastrous start to the tournament.
The Test was all over by halftime, with the Wallabies trailing 32-3 and barely able to field a backline following worrying injuries to Matt Giteau (ankle), Matt Toomua (neck/head) and Rob Horne (shoulder).
So dire was the casualty toll that reserve halfback Nick Phipps played on the wing, forced to mark up on All Blacks powerhouse Julian Savea, as Australia’s hopes of ending a 14-year Bledisloe Cup drought suffered a psychological hammer blow.
Without a victory in New Zealand in 15 years, the Wallabies must win twice in two months across the Tasman to miraculously wrestle back the trophy.
That goal seemingly a pipedream, the first priority will be regrouping for next Saturday’s return bout in Wellington, with coach Michael Cheika certain to require several reinforcements.
Newly appointed national skills coach Mick Byrne also has a huge task trying to solve Australia’s kicking woes after a series of fundamental blunders from the Wallabies.
Giteau, who lasted barely 10 minutes before limping off in a painful re-run of his 2015 World Cup final despair, failed to find touch from a penalty before the All Blacks’ first try, while Bernard Foley and Israel Folau both had clearing kicks charged down, Foley’s gifting Jerome Kaino a five-pointer.
But the set piece remains Cheika’s biggest concern, with the All Blacks winning five lineouts on the Wallabies’ throw and a rare scrum against the feed.
New Zealand’s record-breaking victory came 12 hours after it emerged that a listening device had been planted at the All Blacks’ hotel in Sydney, with police investigating.