New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga, left, beats Australia’s Noah Lolesio to score his during the Bledisloe rugby test between the All Blacks and the Wallabies at Stadium Australia, Sydney.
If you bumped into Richie Mo’unga in a dark alley you probably wouldn’t worry about him causing too much strife.
The All Blacks No 10 might weigh only 83kg, which in the world of professional rugby isn’t terribly big, but when he wants to cause pain and anxiety he can be one of the craftiest operators on the international circuit.
Just ask Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and his men after the All Blacks walloped them 43-5 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
This was the All Blacks biggest winning margin over the Wallabies (shading the 43-6 victory in Wellington in 1996) and it was Mo’unga who created many of their problems on a soggy pitch.
* All Blacks v Australia: Why Sam Cane can hope to lift Bledisloe Cup in Sydney
* All Blacks vs Australia: Ian Foster has done his homework on new Wallabies No 10
* Live: All Blacks vs Australia – Bledisloe Cup III and Tri-Nations
He put in an excellent shift, especially in the first half, scoring 2 tries, kicking 5 conversions and a penalty to bag 23 points and ensure the Bledisloe remains in New Zealand.
And there could be more bad news for Rennie and co, because the All Blacks were like a 100m sprinter who decided to coast at the 60m mark before going full-tilt in the final quarter.
The majority of the damage was inflicted in the first 40 minutes against a Wallabies side that looked disjointed and bewildered, with young first five-eighth Noah Lolesio and No 12 Irae Simone often stranded.
Not that they got much help from the older heads around them, with errors contributing to a miserable effort.
Anyone with a ticket to view this battle – only around 26,000 were sold due to Covid restrictions and the dreadful weather – got value for their coin inside the opening 14 minutes; two yellow cards, a legitimate try and two disallowed five-pointers were dished-up and it was the All Blacks who mostly benefited.
Wallaby right wing Filipo Daugunu, who talked up the need to “smash’’ Caleb Clarke during the week, was first to be tagged as the bad guy.
Truth be told, he was fortunate to escape a red card for tackling opposite Clarke as he launched to pouch a high ball, and there was no escaping a trip to the sin-bin.
Two minutes later, the All Blacks struck; Karl Tu’inukuafe got the ball in his claws and never mind the fact he had an overlap, because the loosehead prop had only one thing on his mind.
You almost felt sympathetic for the Wallaby defenders as he pointed his 135kg rig toward the line, rammed down the gas pedal and snared his first test try.
Then it was Jordie Barrett’s turn to join Daugunu in the cooler, the All Blacks right wing having been charged with carelessly lifting his forearm into the head of Dane Haylett-Petty.
That was a rare victory, of sorts, for the Wallabies as they desperately tried to find their rhythm when the black jerseys continued to flood their left flank.
Hooker Dane Coles and Clarke were each denied five-pointers, the former having an on-field decision overturned by TMO Angus Gardner when it was deemed he had not grounded the ball correctly.
Clarke wasn’t unlucky. A brilliant Marika Koroibete cover dive thwarted him, although there was no saving the Wallabies when Mo’unga zoomed down the same channel.
Prior to kick-off Rennie emphasised he expected a better defensive effort after his side missed 40 tackles in the 27-7 loss in Auckland a fortnight earlier, so he must have gripped his desk with fright as he watched Mo’unga skip past two defenders for his first try of the night.
Mo’unga second try, which began deep inside the All Blacks’ half, was then followed by Coles flopping over following a lineout drive and by halftime the Wallabies were toast.
Now both teams will prepare to travel to Brisbane for the dead rubber next weekend.
Both can improve. Which isn’t good news for the Wallabies.
All Blacks 43 (Richie Mo’unga 2, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Dane Coles, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett tries; Mo’unga 5 con, Mo’unga pen) Wallabies 5 (Noah Lolesio try). HT: 26-0