SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty both crossed twice as New Zealand ran in eight tries in a brilliant display of running rugby to demolish Australia 54-34 in the Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.
The world champions extinguished any chance of an upset with three tries in seven first-half minutes and sliced through the home defence almost at will in the opening 50 to start their title defence with a bonus-point win. Liam Squire, Sonny Bill Williams, Damian McKenzie and Ben Smith also scored tries as the All Blacks brushed off the disappointment of the drawn British and Irish Lions series and a string of off-field distractions.
The Wallabies scored tries through debutant winger Curtis Rona, replacement back Tevita Kuridrani, centre Kurtley Beale and fullback Israel Folau but they came in the second half once the game was already beyond them.
“It was pretty surreal that first half to be honest. We came here to play our game and it really came off. It was a pretty awesome first half,” New Zealand captain Kieran Read said.
“It came about by the doing the simple things. We carried really hard and exploited a few gaps out wide.”
The Wallabies face the All Blacks in Dunedin again next week and on this evidence their prospects of winning the remaining two Bledisloe Cup tests to reclaim the trophy for the first time since 2002 must be rated as extremely remote.
“It is not the start we would have hoped for,” said Australia captain Michael Hooper.
“Being 50 points behind, you start to throw everything we had, I’m so happy with that.”
Looking to dispel some of the gloom hanging over the Australian game, the Wallabies put together some sharp phases with their first possession and were rewarded with flyhalf Bernard Foley’s penalty in the third minute.
From then on, however, it was one-way traffic in the first half with quick hands down the line sending Squire over in the 10th minute and the three-try burst from the 18th minute silencing what noise was coming from the home supporters.
Winger Ioane scored the first two, beating a badly positioned Folau on the outside and benefiting from a Beale spill to race away for the second.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett’s neat short pass sent Crotty in for the fourth try and his centre partner Williams, returning after a four-match ban for his red card in the Lions series, stormed across for the fifth.
Crotty still had time before the interval to claim his second after more poor tackling in the Wallabies midfield to give the visitors a 40-6 lead at the break.
It was more of the same after the restart with fullback McKenzie, playing his third test, getting reward for his thrilling running and winger Ben Smith giving the All Blacks a 54-6 lead after 48 minutes.
Facing their biggest ever test defeat full in the face, the Wallabies rallied with the four unanswered tries to give the majority of the crowd of 54,846 something to cheer and secure a bonus point.
The All Blacks could have had a ninth try three minutes from time when Barrett, who kicked seven conversions, charged down a Foley defensive kick, only for the video official to decide both players had grounded the ball simultaneously.
Editing by Ed Osmond