SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen described his side’s first 50 minutes against Australia on Saturday “as good a rugby as you’ll ever see” after the world champions established a 54-6 lead in the opening match of the Rugby Championship.
While the All Blacks coach was not as happy with the final half an hour when the Wallabies scored four unanswered tries, the emphatic 54-34 victory could not have come at a better time after a week studded with off-field distractions.
Lurid details of scrumhalf Aaron Smith’s toilet tryst at Christchurch airport last year were published in the Australian media and were followed on Saturday by allegations of an extra-marital affair levelled at flanker Jerome Kaino.
Kaino, who had been rested from the Sydney test, was sent home on Saturday to deal with a “personal issue”, New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.
In addition, the week was peppered with revelations from the All Blacks camp during the trial of their former security guard, who was found not guilty on Friday of planting a bugging device in the team’s meeting room last year.
“Rugby’s always going to have moments where you are not happy with things that are going on but ultimately it’s all about Saturday isn’t it?,” Hansen said.
“It’s about winning the game and doing things that you are proud of. We’ve done that tonight.”
The World Cup-winning coach said he thought Smith had played “really well” on Saturday and bridled when asked whether Kaino would be considered for next week’s return test in Dunedin.
“I think that’s a pretty low question,” he added. “We all know what the problem is and he’s got some stuff he’s got to deal with and once he’s dealt with that, we’ll make some decisions.”
Hansen and captain Kieran Read were much keener to talk about the side’s display in running in eight tries to take a 54-6 lead in the 48th minute.
“Any time you can put that number of points on any international team that feels pretty good,” Read said.
“And it really just came about by us doing the simple things well. We’ve got some talented players and we can give them go-forward ball and look after the ball in contact, things come off and the talent really shines.”
Hansen’s delight at the “really special” spell was tempered by what happened in the last 30 minutes but even that, he felt, might prove a useful wake-up call.
“The first 50 minutes was as good a rugby as you’ll ever see and the last 30 some of the ugliest rugby,” he said.
“I think we got a little seduced by the scoreboard and went away from some of the fundamentals of what we wanted to do.
“It’s another learning for a group that’s re-establishing itself and that will give us something to really focus on when we’re going to Dunedin and that won’t do us any harm.
“If we’d gone on and won the game the way we were playing in the first half, I don’t think would have done us any good either.”
Editing by Ed Osmond