Wallabies show fight, but it's nowhere near enough
A LATE Wallabies fightback helped narrow the margin but it couldn't prevent yet another Bledisloe Cup hammering at the hands of the All Blacks.
The Kiwis put a week of off-field scandal and distraction behind them to put the Aussies to the sword on it, scoring seven unanswered tries before 50 minutes had even ticked by on the clock.
It was the most points ever scored by the All Blacks against Australia but just as the record books were being prepared for a whole ugly rewrite, the Wallabies staged a second-half fightback.
Australia scored four tries in the final half-hour to narrow the margin from a record 48 points to a slightly more respectable 20.
It helped ease the Wallabies' blushes a little. But not much.
For as much spirit was shown in the last half-hour, the Wallabies defence oscillated between atrocious and missing in the first 50 minutes and any hope of victory was gone well before the belated comeback.
The Wallabies made 95 tackles but missed a whopping 48 in the game and at times the All Blacks appeared to be able to score at will.
Ryan Crotty and Rieko Ioane scored twice, feasting off Australian mistakes and defensive errors highlighting the disturbing lack of confidence in the Wallabies ranks this year.
The only defensive starch came in the last quarter, when the energy of the Wallabies bench helped them stave off an unwanted place in the record books.
The most points conceded in a Test is 61 against South Africa in 1997, and just one more Kiwi try would have equalled that.
But it didn't come.
The second-half tries also saw off the possibility of the 2017 Wallabies taking the record of worst losing margin (45 points) against the Springboks in 2008.
To be any chance of winning the Bledisloe Cup this year, Australia must now go to Dunedin to try and beat the Kiwis on home soil on Saturday.
If they play anything like they did in Sydney, that's not happening.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said he was happy with the fightback, but not much else,.
"I am really proud we showed that Australian spirit and came back there," he said post-match.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read said the game had felt "surreal in the first half".
"It's nice to play when it's all coming off like that," Read said.
"We tried to come here and play our game and a lot of cases it just stuck in the first half."
It would be easy to say it was all over by halftime, with the All Blacks leading 40-6 courtesy of six tries.
In fact, it was all over by the 25 minutes, when the Kiwis used a 10-minute period to sink Australia with three quick tries and turn what had been a reasonably close game into another walkover.
Bernard Foley nailed a penalty in the third minute but the Wallabies' main problem - utterly woeful defence - didn't take long to emerge.
An innocuous All Blacks attacking line somehow managed to bamboozle the Aussies and Liam Squire raced down the left sideline to score in the seventh minute.
Still, Australia continued to attack and an Israel Folau offload put the Wallabies in good position. They walked away with a penalty and at the 17th minute it was 7-6.
When the Kiwis attacked the Aussie line, they somehow turned a two-on-five into a try when Folau bit on a drifting Beauden Barrett and let Ioane score on his outside.
Three minutes later, Ioane went in again when a rushed pass from Bernard Foley was knocked by Kurtley Beale and the Kiwis swooped on the loose ball to score. More simple missed tackles let Crotty score a too-simple try another three minutes later, and then, Australia were toast at 26-6, with 56 minutes of the game left to play.
More missed tackles led to the Wallabies defending their line again and when Sonny Bill Williams was given a short ball near the line, halfback Aaron Smith didn't even wait until he broken through two defenders to score before he hollered about the try. It was that certain.
Samu Kerevi missed another tackle and Crotty strolled in for a disturbingly easy second try.
If Cheika's halftime speech made any impact, it didn't show.
Two minutes into the second period, Damien McKenzie scored a simple try while fans were still finding their seats after the break.
Five minutes later, Ben Smith scored after more missed tackles.
People reached for the record books to put context to the slaughter.
But then, suddenly, Australia's fightback began.
Curtis Rona scored from a Nick Phipps pass in the 51st minute after a scrum on the Kiwi line, and minutes later Tevita Kuridrani scored a second when he took an offload from Folau.
The Wallabies scored a third in the 60th minute though Beale when he picked up a dropped Kiwi pass and raced 50 metres before Folau added try in the 67th minute.
NEW ZEALAND 54 (Ryan Crotty 2, Rieko Ioane 2, Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Liam Squire, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Beauden Barrett 7 conversions) AUSTRALIA 34 (Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Tevita Kuridrani, Curtis Rona tries; Bernard Foley 4 conversions, 2 penalties) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. HT: 40-6.