All Blacks pack needs big response in Auckland
The All Blacks forwards have taken a rare off night on the chin.
You know they wouldn't have enjoyed being man-handled by the Wallabies, blown off the park by referee Jaco Peyper and having to spend much of Saturday night at the Olympic stadium in batten-down-the hatches mode on defence.
Most of all they would not have enjoyed a 12-12 final scoreline that ended their streak of 17 consecutive victories; and suggested rather strongly that the Wallabies might just be as good as their publicity suggests they are.
The looks on their faces afterwards and yesterday as they packed up and headed back to Auckland for the rematch in just seven days' time suggested a mix of embarrassment, anger and grim determination to atone.
This was no banner night for the All Blacks, least of all for their eight who were smashed in the possession battle and outplayed on a night when a premium was placed on skills and accuracy.
In fact, the All Blacks' best moments in a dour Rugby Championship and Bledisloe opener pretty much all came on defence.
Wing Julian Savea was magnificent, as was hooker Dane Coles. Both made memorable try-saving plays dashing back to salvage kicked-through ball. The All Blacks D-line held up throughout, even as the pressure seemed all but insurmountable in the second half.
"We didn't have as many opportunities as we would have liked," said veteran backup hooker Keven Mealamu. "The Aussies put out a really good performance and we were able to defend really well but just weren't as clinical as we would have liked to be.
"The Aussies applied some good pressure, they held the ball well and were able to build some good phases. They put us under pressure with ball in hand, and when we have a look at the game we will find a few things we can do a lot better."
Mealamu refused to blame the referee, and lock Brodie Retallick felt the All Blacks had to be better at adjusting to a hardline stance being taken. They lost prop Wyatt Crockett and replacement No 10 Beauden Barrett to the bin for infringements around the tackle area.
"I guess you've got to push the boundaries a wee bit in tests but we probably pushed them too far and we didn't play how he was reffing the rucks," Retallick said. "That's our fault and we have to deal with that."
Lock Sam Whitelock yesterday said it was about taking the lessons on board from a match where they'd started well, but allowed the opposition to take it away from them
"They definitely played well, and brought it to us. That's something as forwards we need to make sure we can match, and also go up another cog."
It's not often All Black forwards are left bruised and battered at the hands of their Wallaby opposites. Their response at Eden Park on Saturday should be interesting.