Otago Daily Times
Clarke shines as NZ asserts authority
RUGBY Bledisloe Cup
WELLINGTON: Winger Caleb Clarke produced a stunning performance of power running in his first test start to provide some much needed attacking thrust as New Zealand beat Australia 277 in the second Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park in Auckland yesterday.
The authoritative win erased memories of a 1616 draw in the first game last week and also gave the All Blacks the advantage in retaining the Bledisloe Cup, which they have held since 2003, as the series moves to Australia for the final two matches.
The pressure on All Black coach Ian Foster was no doubt alleviated a little with the result, which was played in front of a crowd of 46,049 after Auckland moved to Alert Level 1 earlier this month.
``He is a special player and a special kid,'' All Black captain Sam Cane, who scored his side's final try, said of the 21yearold Clarke. ``He didn't let anyone down.''
Clarke's ability to break tackles was helped by a far better performance from the All Blacks forwards, who had been criticised for a lack of intensity last week.
Some longstanding issues of attacking penetration against an aggressive defence were also laid bare in Wellington, which only increased the pressure on Foster.
The All Blacks, however, rarely have successive poor performances and the Wallabies were well aware that after their 4726 record victory last year in Perth they were thrashed 360 in Auckland the following week.
``They were better this week,'' Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said after yesterday's result in which the All Blacks conceded only a first halftry to Marika Koroibete.
``They got the better of us . . . and were very good in turnover and capitalised on our mistakes.''
The Wallabies put the All
Blacks under enormous early pressure before the home side started winning collisions and increased the pace of the game and began to break tackles, fullback Beauden Barrett and Clarke making several strong runs.
Richie Mo'unga slotted a 19thminute penalty as the territorial pressure told before halfback Aaron Smith scored a try four minutes later from an attacking scrum.
Mo'unga converted to give the All Blacks a 100 advantage before the Wallabies again showed how dangerous they can be with the ball in hand when Koroibete crossed after a turnover and James O'Connor's conversion narrowed the gap to 107.
Clarke was then the catalyst for tries within the space of three secondhalf minutes to Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea with two powerful runs, the second in which he bounced out of several tackles, to give the home side a 207 lead.
Some superb defence by Mo'unga stopped Koroibete from scoring his second try shortly after, before hooker Brandon PaengaAmosa had a try overturned by referee Angus Gardner.
Cane finished off a sweeping movement less than 90 seconds later to give the home side a 277 lead that ended the Australian challenge.
``We put a marker down and that has to be the base now, [because] this is [the best] Wallabies team I have seen in a while,'' Foster said.
``They stay in the fight and we need to fight for 80 minutes.’’ — Reuters