Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, 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.Read more exclusive columns
OPINION: There’s still life in the trans-Tasman contest
Jim Kayes 22 Oct 2017 Getty Images
QUICK TAP: AUSTRALIA KNOCK ALL BLACKS OFF THEIR GAME
At Suncorp Stadium the Wallabies were good, very good, especially in the face of some All Blacks tackles that will make any Smashed ‘em Bro highlights reel.
Skipper Kieran Read, flanker Sam Cane, wing Waisake Naholo and second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams hit the Wallabies in ferocious tackles in the opening quarter, with replacement prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi delivering one of his own late in the match.
But as spectacular as those hits were, this was an All Blacks performance that lacked punch.
Yes, of course, they were missing six first choice players with Ben Smith on sabbatical, Brodie Retallick absent for personal reasons, Beauden Barrett out with concussion, and Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Israel Dagg injured.
That’s a third of the starting XV and the impact of the absence of Barrett and Retallick, in particular, was clear for all to see.
But the All Blacks have to be better that. They used to win without Daniel Carter and they need to be just as lethal on attack without Barrett there.
#STATCHAT | Kieran Read made his 100th Test start in tonight's #AUSvNZL Test. pic.twitter.com/cBjZ6hRcYj— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 21, 2017It’s the same up front. They didn’t have Retallick against South Africa in Cape Town but coped okay and should have been able to dominate the Wallabies in Brisbane too.
Not having their top team has never been an excuse for the All Blacks. They could have won at Suncorp. They lost because Australia played well and they didn’t - at least they didn’t play as well as the All Blacks can.
The attack was disjointed with too many passes astray and far too much ball kicked aimlessly away.
Decision making was poor and discipline was also an issue. It was just as well for the All Blacks that Bernard Foley was wayward from the tee or the result may not have been in the balance in the final few minutes.
This was always going to be a tough game for the All Blacks to “get up” for. The Bledisloe Cup was already safe and the Rugby Championship had been won again.
It was a dead rubber for them, but a chance for Australia to show how much they have improved since losing to Scotland in June and getting hammered by the All Blacks in Sydney.
And that’s exactly what they did, holding on to the ball well, constructing their attacking forays, taking their chances (their first try was an intercept) and feeding off the All Blacks errors and poor discipline.
This win will shine a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for rugby in Australia.
The manner of the the loss will frustrate the All Blacks and coach Steve Hansen, though he was typically gracious in defeat.
"Congratulations to Australia they deserved the win and hopefully they kick on,” he said. “They were a better side than us and they deserved the win.
"They took their opportunities and we gave them another intercept. They didn't blow any of the opportunities they had and they put us under pressure and it prevented us from taking ours.
“We will review the game see what we need to work on and try to fix them. The sun will come up tomorrow.”
Despite the win for Australia, it is far too early to say whether it is the dawn of a new era for the Wallabies.
This win needs to be kept in perspective (even if the Wallabies celebrated like they’d won the World Cup) but it does show there’s life still in the trans-Tasman contest.
And that’s something true All Blacks fans should be happy about.