The Kangaroos have celebrated Cameron Smith’s 50th match in green and gold with a crushing 30-12 win over a Kiwis side that had been described pre-game as one of the best New Zealand squads of all time.
Australia’s methodical dismantling of the second-best team on the planet is an ominous warning to their rivals ahead of this year’s World Cup.
The win – their 100th over New Zealand – might have come at a cost with centre Josh Dugan taken to hospital for scans on a possible facial fracture after a sickening head clash with Russell Packer midway through the second half.
It was a night of missed opportunities for the Kiwis who ran for more metres than their opposition but were left to rue several poor options in attack on a chilly night in the nation’s capital.
New Zealand had all the early running and had several opportunities to pin the Kangaroos deep in their own end, but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and then Jordan Rapana sent two attacking kicks dead in the first seven minutes to let Australia off the hook.
It’s those minor mistakes that have hurt the Kiwis on the international stage and Australia showed them how it’s done with Cooper Cronk and Valentine Holmes procuring repeat sets, before Johnathan Thurston’s pinpoint kick found a flying Dugan for the first points of the night.
An Andrew Fifita error from the kick-off opened the door for an immediate reply, and while Shaun Johnson managed to force a line dropout with an angled grubber, the Kiwis halfback went from hero to villain in the space of 60 seconds as his cut-out pass was intercepted by Blake Ferguson who raced 95 metres to extend the lead.
Despite the early setbacks, the visitors maintained their territorial dominance but were denied twice on consecutive plays when Tuivasa-Sheck was held up and then Rapana had his effort rubbed out for a forward pass.
They would prove to be costly misses as the Kangaroos marched downfield on the back of a big break by Sam Thaiday whose bullocking run allowed Will Chambers to take advantage of a scattered defensive line to score a simple try out of dummy-half.
A fourth try looked imminent when Matt Gillett broke through some flimsy defence and found a seemingly unmarked Ferguson on his outside in support, but some desperate defence forced the winger into touch.
There would be no denying the Aussies however as the Kangaroos extended the margin four minutes before the break when Tyson Frizell reacted first to a Thurston grubber that ricocheted off the posts and sat up for the big man to score.
The Kangaroos picked up from where they left off with tackling machine Jake Trbojevic crashing over four minutes into the second half to push the lead out to 30.
Australia’s brick wall defensive line was finally breached in the 56th minute when veteran Simon Mannering marked his return to the national side with a try to get his side on the board.
A typically tireless tackle by Mannering then forced Ferguson into touch five metres out from his own line, and from the ensuing scrum, Tuivasa-Sheck showed enough speed to get on the outside of Thurston to cross for his 10th Test try.
Kangaroos 30 (Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Will Chambers, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 goals) def. Kiwis 12 (Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Jordan Kahu 2 goals) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: 24-0. Crowd: 18,535.