By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand served up a Halloween nightmare for an inexperienced Wallabies side by romping to a record 43-5 victory in the Tri-Nations opener on Saturday and claiming the Bledisloe Cup for the 18th successive year.
All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga scored two brilliant individual tries in six first-half minutes and forwards Karl Tu’inukuafe and Dane Coles also crossed as the visitors raced to a 26-0 lead in just half an hour.
The pain eased for the crowd of 25,689 at the Olympic Stadium early in the second half when Australia flyhalf Noah Lolesio scored a try on his test debut but Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett blew out the score in the last 10 minutes.
Mo’unga converted five of six tries and added a penalty to take his personal match tally to 23 points and ensure the highest victory margin for the All Blacks in 169 tests against their neighbours.
“It’s more than relief, it’s really exciting and I’m just really proud of the group and excited about what lies ahead,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
The Tri-Nations, which also involves Argentina, replaced the Rugby Championship after world champions South Africa withdrew from the annual southern hemisphere tournament citing player welfare concerns.
The Wallabies had gone into the first test match on Australian soil this year with hopes high but Dave Rennie’s inexperienced side made too many errors and were ruthlessly punished for them.
The loss combined with a 16-16 draw and a 27-7 defeat in New Zealand earlier this month handed the All Blacks the Bledisloe Cup with next week’s fourth test in Brisbane to spare.
Australia’s young side probably needed everything to go right for them to have a chance of beating the clinical All Blacks but they were on the back foot as early as the third minute.
Filipo Daugunu was shown a yellow card for upending a jumping Caleb Clarke, although he appeared a little unfortunate having been nudged into his fellow winger’s path by Cane.
Two minutes later and Tu’inukuafe charged over the Australian line with players unmarked outside him and even if Jordie Barrett was also sent to the sin bin soon afterwards for an elbow to Nic White’s face, the All Blacks remained in charge.
Coles and Clarke had tries rubbed out by the TMO but there was no question of any intervention when Mo’unga swept around the back of a scrum and beat Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa for pace to touch down in the 21st minute.
The flyhalf’s second came courtesy of a neat chip and chase in midfield and the All Blacks pack drove over the Australia line in the 30th minute for the fourth unanswered try.
A rampaging run from centre Jordan Petaia set up Lolesio’s try and gave Australia the first score of the second half but the Wallabies continued to make too many mistakes to mount a serious comeback.
“I just don’t think we were accurate. We gave away the ball too easily and we didn’t kick smart,” said Australia captain Michael Hooper.
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