The Black Ferns were comfortably better than the Wallaroos in Sydney yet finished the match frustrated they weren’t able to get the expansive side of their attacking game firing. Good Australian defence forced them to keep it tight with three driving maul tries to captain Fiao’o Faamausili leading the way in the 31-11 win.
"We tried to flick some 50-50 offloads where we would have been best to carry,” coach Glenn Moore said.
"I'm confident we'll get polished this week, we definitely needed that game," he said. There were similar frustrations from the All Blacks with their first half performance which saw them behind 6-5 at the break. They responded superbly with five second half tries to win 38-13 but will be disappointed at how the first 40 minutes went. They know Australia will be better.
Last year the All Blacks hammered the Aussies 54-34 in the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney but needed a last minute try to secure a dramatic 35-29 win in Dunedin a week later. It is rare for the All Blacks to make the same mistake twice, to let history repeat, so they will have talked about what happened last year and will be ready.
There’s also the Eden Park factor. The All Blacks haven’t lost there since 1994 when they tumbled to France and haven’t been beaten there by Australia since 1986. Records are made to be broken but the All Blacks have a huge sense of pride in their winning streak in Auckland. But what will really matter this Saturday is fitness and conditioning. The Wallabies were out on their feet at the 50 minute mark in Sydney and that’s just when the All Blacks were getting going.
They scored four tries after that mark as the Wallabies errors increased, their defence fell away (they missed 40 tackles to the All Blacks 11) and the set piece crumbled.
The scrum was poor most of the night, with halfback Will Genia often forced to clear from a collapsed base, and they won only 41 per cent of their lineout throws. The All Blacks will again play at pace and with intensity. The challenge for the Wallabies is to match that for longer than 50 minutes. It’s difficult, given their collapse in Sydney, to believe they can.
Especially as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made only two changes to the starting XV and both were forced by injury with Ngani Laumape in for Ryan Crotty and Jordie Barrett replacing Rieko Ioane in a re-jigged backline that sees Ben Smith move to the right wing and Waisake Naholo switch to the left.
It’s where they were from the 46th minute in Sydney after Damian McKenzie came on and added his spark, with Naholo scoring his two tries down the left flank. If the All Blacks are given space again at Eden Park then that fire power out wide, coupled with the brilliance of Beauden Barrett and McKenzie in broken play, will be too much for the Wallabies.
The test is Owen Franks’ 100th and he joins skipper Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Dan Carter, Tony Woodcock, Ma’a Nonu, Mils Muliaina, Keven Mealamu and Richie McCaw in that exclusive club. It’s intriguing that despite the increased physical demands of the game, six of those nine players are forwards and three are from the front row.