It’s the zero that says the most - Kayes

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They showed that even in the record loss to Australia in Perth when they scored four tries with almost no possession.

So for them to score five tries in the 36-0 shut out at Eden Park wasn’t that much of a surprise.

But to keep the Wallabies scoreless was special. Remember, these were the same Australians who scored six tries in Perth - admittedly against 14 All Blacks in the second half, but still.


Defence wins big games, it wins World Cup matches, so to see that part of the All Blacks’ game so good at Eden Park is reassuring a month out from the tournament.

This win, which retained the Bledisloe Cup, is not absolute proof the All Blacks will win in Japan. 

World Cups are a different beast and this one is wide open with England, Wales, Ireland, South Africa and Australia all worthy contenders (yes, Aussie too, remember, they are a good tournament team).

Add to that France - who ever knows how they will play - and Argentina and Scotland, and the All Blacks might go to Japan as favourites, but that guarantees nothing.

But this win at Eden Park will allay concerns. 

It was a reminder that the All Blacks know how to respond to a loss and pressure - and World Cups are all about pressure.

The All Blacks are used to that, but for some of the other big contenders, and perhaps especially Wales and Ireland, heading to Japan with big expectations from home will bring a level of pressure they aren’t completely used to.

How they cope with that will be fascinating.

The performance at Eden Park also showed there’s depth and options in the All Blacks back three with George Bridge and Sevu Reece getting on the scoreboard.

But they did good work for others too with Bridge helping to set up Aaron Smith’s try and putting pressure on Kurtley Beale’s pass for Richie Mo’unga to scoop up and score.

The dual pivot ploy with Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett looked good too and it was encouraging to see Sonny Bill Williams get through his work, often in heavy traffic.

Having been so completely out played by the Wallaby pack in Perth, the All Blacks eight responded in fine fashion, making yards with the ball and strong in the set piece.

They fired a warning shot to all other teams when they twice smashed the Wallaby scrum while Dane Coles was in the sin bin for a judo throw on Wallaby halfback Nic White.

It had shades of what an undermanned England pack did to the All Blacks in Wellington on their way to a World Cup win in Australia in 2003.

All year we have been waiting for the All Blacks to “click”, wondering when they will play to their potential and blow a team off the park.

It’s that frustration with a talented team that has been off kilter that had many All Blacks fans worried.

The draw with South Africa and loss to Australia, coming off last year’s patchy performances, raised awkward questions, particularly around coach Steve Hansen.

Had he stayed on too long and lost that razor sharp edge needed to keep the All Blacks at the top and at their very best?

He showed he remains as ruthless as ever when he dropped three of his established players for this test.

And, in his 100th as head coach, the All Blacks responded with easily their best performance this year.




Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post,, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.


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