WINGER Ben Smith scored a hat-trick as a ruthless New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship title defence with a six-try 47-29 victory over Australia in Sydney yesterday to ruin Ewen McKenzie’s first match as Wallabies coach.
The world champions scored three tries either side of half-time at the Olympic Stadium with stand-off Aaron Cruden, captain Richie McCaw and centre Conrad Smith supplementing the treble by Ben Smith, pictured.
Scrum-half Will Genia and James O’Connor scored what were ultimately consolation tries for the home side, with Christian Leali’ifano remaining flawless in international rugby with seven kicks from seven attempts for 19 points.As well as giving the All Blacks a bonus point, the victory means Australia must win both the return in Wellington next week and a third test in Dunedin in October to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2003.
“I am obviously very happy with the performance,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “It’s not every day that you can come here and get 40-odd points. It’s important to be a winning team, but you’ve got to keep humble and your feet on the floor because you’ve got to win again next week.
“The Bledisloe Cup, you have to win twice, so we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve only done a small part of the job, but until we win two, we don’t win it.”
McKenzie said: “We didn’t control the ball and they were able to play and do some of the things they’re good at.”
The day’s second game was a nine-try romp for South Africa as they overwhelmed Argentina 73-13 in Johannesburg.
The Springboks bettered the competition record for the biggest winning margin and also their own 16-year-old mark for the most points in a match. The tries included a record-extending 51st for winger Bryan Habana while fly-half Morne Steyn slotted over eight conversions and four penalties.
The other Boks tries came from JJ Engelbrecht, Adriaan Strauss, Willem Alberts, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Bismark du Plessis and a penalty try. Felipe Contepomi, who scored all of the Pumas’ points.