New Zealand completed a one-sided sweep of Australia on Sunday when Ian Foster’s side strode to a dramatic 38-21 win in Perth.
The 2021 Rugby Championship resumed in thrilling circumstances as the All Blacks romped to victory despite seeing full-back Jordie Barrett sent off during the first half.
Despite their setback, New Zealand scored six tries to complete the bonus-point win and move back to the summit of the tournament standings in front of South Africa.
All four Rugby Championship teams will be back in action next Sunday in Queensland, but the final Bledisloe Cup encounter of the year gave fans plenty to mull over…
Barrett right to see red
Fans had nine tries to take in at Optus Stadium, but the stand-out moment was Barrett’s red card during a feisty opening half in Perth.
Soon after scoring the game’s opening try, Barrett was shown red by referee Damon Murphy after his outstretched boot connected with the face of onrushing winger Marika Koroibete.
Many argued the offence was worthy of a yellow at best, while some went so far as to suggest Koroibete could have been carded himself for making contact with an airborne opponent.
That defence would appear to fall flat, however, considering the Wallabies ace was still half a metre or so away from his intended target, who perhaps didn’t need to stretch out a leg at all.
New Zealand legend Andrew Mehrtens sympathised with Barrett and suggested his compatriot "had to tilt his body in the air, so it's probably natural for his leg to come out.”
The move may not be that innocent, however, as it appears Barrett’s leg only rose at the last second, perhaps in an attempt to discourage his would-be tackler from advancing any further.
In the end, the sport has placed a higher emphasis on preventing contact with the head for good reason, and Barrett was rightfully found to have been in breach of those laws.
Samu Kerevi must stay
While the end result wasn’t the one he will have sought in his first international appearance for almost two years, Samu Kerevi was a breath of fresh air in his return to the Wallabies XV.
The recalled centre would have single-handedly created the game’s opening score for Koroibete were it not for the eagle-eyed TMO spotting his illegal pick-up at the ruck.
But the intent shown in that sequence—particularly against a side as intimidating as New Zealand—is what Australia have been lacking, with the midfield an area in need of some star quality.
Tokyo Sungoliath star Kerevi recorded 21 runs—at least nine more than any other player—for 86 metres with ball in hand, and Tate McDermott (seven) was the only Wallaby to beat more than his four defenders.
Currently in Dave Rennie’s squad as one of two players permitted who doesn’t meet the cap criteria, Australia have to find a way of keeping Kerevi among their ranks in the long run.
Heroic Havili an emerging talisman
And in the opposing centre corps, David Havili continues to build his own case for locking down an All Blacks berth after another star outing against the Wallabies.
The tries have flowed for New Zealand in this Bledisloe series, collecting 18 across their three Tests with Australia, but Havili is the only player to have dotted down in each of those fixtures.
The Crusaders star has formed a habit of impressing for the franchise wherever he’s needed, but his international future looks destined for that inside centre shirt.
Whether it’s Anton Lienert-Brown or Rieko Ioane fielded outside him, Havili has sparkled for the All Blacks and been reliable in all sectors.
Two missed tackles highlighted there’s perhaps work to be done in defence, but Havili’s fifth straight start at centre was the strongest evidence yet that Foster has the right man for the job.
Wallabies still wanting in ‘red zone’
It’s a point that will feel all too familiar for Wallabies fans, but another defeat to New Zealand highlighted a gulf between the two teams when it comes to their finishing in particular.
Not that anyone is expected to be as good as the All Blacks in front of the line, but that doesn’t account for the poor decision-making Australia displayed once again facing this foe.
For the third time in as many Tests against New Zealand, the Wallabies threw intercepts in the opposition half, kicked when they shouldn’t have and rushed when cooler heads were required.
Again, the Wallabies are left ruing a result that could have easily gone a different way, with their own errors coming back to haunt them in front of 60,000 fans.
Akira Ioane shines in Ardie Savea’s absence
A debut outing as captain ended prematurely for Ardie Savea following a first-half head injury, so it was just as well back-row team-mate Akira Ioane played well enough for two.
Few would expect a 6’4”, 105-kilogram star to move so swiftly considering his frame, but Ioane glided in the Perth sun to help set up scores for Lienert-Brown and winger Will Jordan.
The loose forward beat no fewer than nine defenders—at least two more than any other player— and rampaged for 82 metres with ball in hand.
Ioane may be only seven caps into his All Blacks career, but he’s quickly cementing his place as one of the undroppable names on Foster’s team sheet.
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