2022 New Zealand All Blacks vs Australia - Bledisloe Cup, Game 2

New Zealand Defeats Australia, Retains Rugby Championship Title

New Zealand Defeats Australia, Retains Rugby Championship Title

New Zealand's campaign in The Rugby Championship has been about as chaotic and turbulent as any episode of The Office, but the All Blacks are the champions.

Sep 27, 2022 by RugbyPass
New Zealand Defeats Australia, Retains Rugby Championship Title

New Zealand's campaign in The Rugby Championship has been about as chaotic and turbulent as any given episode of The Office.

Within the space of six weeks, Ian Foster's men have been shamed by South Africa and stunned by Argentina, yet they have emerged with their dignity intact, retaining their title thanks to a dominant display Saturday against the Wallabies.

After scraping past the Aussies last weekend, aided in large part by a controversial late refereeing call made by Frenchman Mathieu Raynal, New Zealand topped the table with the narrowest of advantages, a mere point separating them from the second-placed Springboks.

In truth, Australia proved sterner opposition than originally anticipated and was expected to bounce back, following a last-minute loss in Melbourne the previous Thursday.  

Any promise of a competitive game quickly evaporated, as New Zealand took control and never loosened its grip. In front of a lively Eden Park crowd, the hosts stepped up their performance and entered halftime with a healthy lead.

A fine break made by the pacey Will Jordan opened the scoring, before a penalty try was awarded to the All Blacks. Their clinical edge was on show throughout the contest, and Australia struggled in the face of such consistency, suffering from early ill-discipline.

With only two minutes played, Wallabies second row Jed Holloway saw yellow for hitting the ruck illegally, and then 25 minutes later, he was matched by hooker Dave Porecki, who became the latest player sent to the bin.  

The 17-0 advantage New Zealand carried into the half was given more weight early in the second period, when Sam Whitelock and Codie Taylor crossed the whitewash, further damaging the resolve of the Wallabies.

Any hope of a repeat of last week, when Australia mounted a stunning comeback, quickly dissipated. 

The visitors did score two late consolation tries, the first finished by Folau Fainga'a, but it was New Zealand that had the last say, as Samisoni Taukei'aho directed a driving maul over the line to give Foster's men a hearty 40-14 win.

Before claiming the title, the men in black had a nervous wait to see whether South Africa would tip them at the death. This would happen if the Springboks inflicted a 40-point bonus-point win over Argentina in Durban.

When news spread that South Africa had won 38-21, Foster could rest easy knowing he had achieved what had been unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

"It's a championship we stated we wanted to win, and we've done it the hard way," he told journalists. "I'm just delighted with the performance. I thought [it was a] great way to finish the Championship for us."

He added more about his motivated squad.

"We were really up for a big one here at Eden Park, last game, and I think there were still areas for improvement, but I just loved the attitude and the strength," Foster said. "The set-piece went really well, but overall, the commitment to play the way we wanted to play was there, and it was against a very physical Australian team. We had a little bit to overcome in that first 20 minutes, so I'm really proud of the effort, and it's given ourselves a chance anyway for the Championship."

Whitelock, who captained the hosts to victory, echoed the words of his head coach and was particularly pleased with the defensive resolve his team upheld.

"I'm really happy with our defense," he said. "Defense comes down to effort, and the boys were working hard to get up off the ground. We allowed them back into the game though, pretty frustrating letting them score. There are always things to work on."

Whitelock was fair in his analysis of the performance.

"There were some big shots put in there, but at the same time, we didn't get out of the tackle area quick enough," Whitelock said. "That put us under some pressure, but the guys defending hard on our line, the desire was there, the effort was there, so that's always the first thing you look at, and the boys really showed what it means to play at home for our last test match here in New Zealand for this year."

Despite all the fanfare, New Zealand's latest triumph in The Rugby Championship has been counterbalanced by constant criticism of the nation's playing style and coaching core. In many ways, the title is papering over cracks that have not gone away.

For the last year, consistency has been a major issue for them, but they will have a chance to recalibrate and flex their newfound winning form when taking on Wales, Scotland and England in the autumn internationals.

The All Blacks XV also will get a runout in the coming weeks, as fringe players get valuable gametime against Canada and the Barbarians.

Of most importance, will be the level of performance exhibited this autumn.

The World Cup is only a year away and, with New Zealand placed fourth in the world rankings behind Ireland, France and South Africa, they do not stand as favorites to win international rugby's top prize in Paris in 2023.

For that reason, Foster still is a man under the microscope.

Australia head coach Dave Rennie also is under pressure to deliver results this autumn, after his side slipped to ninth in the world after failing to win the Bledisloe Cup.

While Rennie's team has, at times, showcased smart attacking rugby, his win record after three years in charge stands at a disappointing 38%. That rank could improve if the Wallabies best Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in the months to come.

To do this, the men in gold will have to eradicate the recklessness and ill-discipline, which has hindered them too often.

When commentating for Stan Sport, Wallabies legend Drew Mitchell made this abundantly clear when assessing where they can go from here.

"You look at the way the ref spoke to Nic White today when he told him: 'If that was directed at me, you're going off the field,'" Mitchell said. "Those types of interactions with referees give you an insight as to how they feel or how they position themselves against these players or teams."

Written by Stefan Frost