Rare is it to see 10 tries scored in a Bledisloe Cup match, but such was the case last weekend when New Zealand ran over an Australia side by a 49-28 score. Referee decisions played an unfortunate role, when Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell was sent off for two yellow card offenses. Controversial circumstances of the dismissal aside, Australia struggled to match the pace set by New Zealand in Melbourne.
This weekend the two sides hop across the Tasman, descending on Christchurch to square off in what could be the Tri Nations decider for the All Blacks. Thanks to their impressive start in three games — a 15-point haul and a 55 scoring differential — another bonus point win would secure the crown for Graham Henry’s impervious side.
Pressure is on Australia, who have now lost eight straight to New Zealand, and can’t seem to keep up with the All Blacks — though to be fair, no team can when they perform as they have in the last month. Robbie Deans can only hope to recapture the magic he experienced in Christchurch as coach of the Super Rugby side Crusaders.
Changes are aplenty for the Wallabies — Adam Ashley-Cooper has been shifted into the centers, with Kurtley Beale slotting in as fullback. Beale is one of those prodigious talents who has yet to reach his full potential. He’ll need to keep a calm head at the back under the offensive siege he’ll likely see. Also making news on the Australian front is the Fainagaa twins both starting, Saia at hooker and Anthony at center next to Ashley-Cooper. Matt Giteau retains the fly-half spot in place of the suspende Quade Cooper, while Mitchell retains his spot on the wing.
Whether any of that makes a difference against the All Blacks seems unlikely. New Zealand has a tendency to peak during the Tri Nations, and are firing at all cylinders on both sides of the ball. Henry’s biggest concern at the moment has to be complacency, with such a large gap in the Tri Nations standings.
Henry has only made one changed, and his hand was forced by injury, with Piri Weepu selected at scrum half for Jimmy Cowan. Weepu has the experience at this level to make a seamless transition into the starting ranks, and is more stoutly built than most scrum halves you will see at this level.
Australia was second best in the prior meeting — and that was on home soil. Now heading to New Zealand, the psychological barrier standing in front of the Wallabies will be just as tough to conquer as the opposition they are set to face. And while the Wallabies reject that particular notion, they’ve got to show the ability to snap an eight-game losing streak against what is becoming a seemingly unbeatable side.
If you dare watch, expect to see New Zealand run over the Wallabies and clinch the Tri Nations.
Last week’s highlights are posted here.
Viewing options for Saturday’s 3:35 AM EST kickoff here.