New Zealand media have hailed the Wallabies as genuine World Cup contenders, agreeing they were deserving winners of the Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks.
The Wallabies outscored the All Blacks three ties to two in Saturday’s showdown in Sydney with a 27-19 victory as they stormed home with a late penalty and converted try after trailing 19-17 with 14 minutes to go.
“Now they are genuine World Cup contenders after being just the second side to beat the All Blacks in the last two seasons,” the Auckland-based Herald on Sunday said.
Their rugby correspondent Gregor Paul said Australia were the better team “pure and simple. They won because they played better rugby and took their chances” against a “flustered” New Zealand unit.
“The All Blacks weren’t ruthless and clinical. The Wallabies were,” he said. “The mighty All Blacks were a bit rattled and will no doubt have invited everyone to come at them hard at the World Cup.”
Radio New Zealand described Australia’s first win over New Zealand in 11 Tests since 2011 as a “dark night” while NZ-based Fairfax Media highlighted the All Blacks’ failure to control the key battle in the forwards.
They were “out-muscled at scrum time, beaten at the breakdown” where Australia successfully experimented with dual opensides Michael Hooper and David Pocock.
“Pocock got the turnovers and Hooper did the tackling, several of his low missiles coming at crucial junctures. The All Blacks were simply not accurate enough with ball in hand or at the ruck,” Fairfax rugby writer Toby Robson said.
Problems evident within the All Blacks when they scraped home 27-20 two weeks ago against South Africa were not corrected as “ball retention was proving an issue”.
Former All Black Richard Loe, in his Herald on Sunday column, said it was “a poor All Blacks performance” with catching, passing and tackling well below standard and crucially the forwards were outmuscled.
“The old cliche is that it starts up front and, in short, that’s the point, it didn’t start up front which is a worrying sign.”
The All Blacks are bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups but that could not be guaranteed,” wrote Fairfax columnist Marc Hinton.
“If the All Blacks turn up off their game, as they did in Sydney, defeat could follow at any stage from the quarter-final on,” he said, while talking up Australia’s chances despite being in the so-called “pool of death” with England, Wales and Fiji.
“This is a Wallabies outfit playing with plenty of skill, speed and power, and they will have a bit of swagger about them now too,” he said.
“There are still areas of their game that can be better… but this is a team very much in World Cup contention.”