Well well well, its settled! 21 years after George Gregan lifted the Bledisloe Cup for the last time, the trophy now remains on New Zealand soil, while The Rugby Championship has been secured. Not a bad record for Ian Foster to do this four times in a row. After enduring an onslaught of physical defence coming from Australia, the All Blacks' winning ways were holding on by 19-7 at half-time. By the end of the match, the loosening Aussie discipline opened the flood gates, as the All Blacks extended their lead to a full-time score of 38-7.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground's 83,000-strong crowd got to see several strong performances, so let's begin the first part of my post-match autopsy, by examining what each player contributed. Let's read through the players from jersey number 1 through to 23, to see how they rated.
Oh one last thing, the All Blacks are now back up to number 2 in the World Rankings.
ALL BLACKS PLAYER RATINGS
Mark Telea (pictured in 2022 at Eden Park), was one of the All Blacks' very best in Melbourne. Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (9/10)
de Groot continues to hold the fort down in the number 1 jersey, to strike fear into the opposition. Contributed towards the collapse of an Australian scrum, while delivering a defensive display of 13/13 tackles and 1 turnover. Quickly becoming the world's best in his position.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (9/10)
After the All Blacks' long-lasting failure to break the Wallaby line, Taylor crossed over for a try from a maul in the 33rd minute, before finishing the match with an effective display around the pitch, of 25 metres, 3 defenders beaten, 9 carries, 14/14 tackles and 100% of his lineout throws.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (8/10)
A little overshadowed by the other starting front-rowers, but Lomax's 53 minutes still need appreciation. With 3 in total, Lomax made more passes than carries while in a fluid play out wide, also nailing 8/8 tackles. The big man is well and truly in his career peak.
Lock 4 - Brodie Retallick (7/10)
Although the veteran was the quietest of the tight-five, 15/18 tackles still isn't too bad of a hustle after notching up 102 tests. Aerially competent and making 3 metres off 3 carries, someone has to do the dirty work.
Lock 5 - Scott Barrett (10/10)
Here's our Player of the Tournament. With the All Black captaincy certainly on Barrett's radar for 2024, he's the enforcer. Running 42 metres and beating 4 defenders off 11 carries, his handling was also on display for 5 passes and 1 offload that eventually lead to Caleb Clarke's try. Courtesy of 11/11 tackles and 3 turnovers, a 10/10 is the only rating possible.
Blindside Flanker - Shannon Frizell (8/10)
Making his third-straight start, Frizell showed strong awareness to pounce on a loose ball for the opening try. Gave nice lineout momentum via 9 passes, while looking strong in open play for 15 metres, 1 defender beaten, 10 carries and 7 tackles.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (9/10)
Went out to express himself and will have left sore bodies off his 25/26 tackles; second only to Tom Hooper's 32/37 tackles. Magnificent elsewhere, Papali'i also ran 34 metres, beat 1 defender and made 1 clean break from just 5 carries, also producing 6 passes and 1 turnover. Keep him in the 7 jersey, the missed tackle is the only reason Papali'i isn't a 10/10.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (8/10)
73 tests deep into his test career, the five-time All Blacks captain still carries with huge venom. Savea amassed 56 metres and 3 defenders beaten off his 14 carries, also popping up in the lineout a few times. Delivered 11 passes, 1 turnover and made 12/13 tackles on his way to winning 8 Bledisloe Cups for himself and 21 straight for the nation.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (7/10)
Just exactly what's needed from an experienced player. Smith gave nothing flashy, just crisp passing as he was exactly where he was needed at all times. Made 8 tackles and 1 turnover as he now concludes his international career as a player to never lose the Bledisloe Cup.
First Five - Richie Mo'unga (7/10)
While people will continue to beg for Damian McKenzie at 10, Mo'unga is now just 2 points away from 400 test points. He ran the cutter superbly with 22 passes compared to 12 carries, while he ran 55 metres and beat 4 defenders. Is a 4/6 kicking ratio cause for concern?
Left Wing - Mark Telea (8/10)
So what if Telea is a smaller winger than Caleb Clarke? You simply can't coach the raw will to win from a man who came from nothing. Telea was absolutely freakish with 126 metres, 8 defenders beaten, 5 clean breaks, 17 carries, 4 passes, 1 offload to set up a try to Rieko Ioane, and as well as a try of his own. Could have been better on defence; making 2/4 tackles.
Second Five - Jordie Barrett (7/10)
While backlash is inevitable for such a statement, Barrett is simply too talented to be wasted as a run-it-straight specialist. If this is what Foster wanted, why did he not continue with Ngani Laumape? Barrett did what he was coached to do well, for 67 metres off 6 carries; but as one of the most talented players of all time, Barrett also deserves to use his distribution more. We also didn't see any kicking from him, despite his 60+ metre range.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (7/10)
What's that about him still belonging on the wing? Very much in the opposite situation to his midfield partner, Ioane's 12/15 tackles included yet another try-saver, this time on Marika Koroibete. Anyone with his pace will punish disorganised defence, Ioane's run metres added up to 60, while he also scored his 35th test try.
Right Wing - Will Jordan (10/10)
Stats don't paint the full picture, Jordan was excellent. 47 metres were the second-least of the starting backs, but an all-round contribution rounded out by 2 defenders beaten, 2 clean breaks, 10 carries, 11 passes, 1 offload, 9/9 tackles and 1 turnover; finally saw Jordan play his first 19 minutes of test rugby from fullback. Now with 23 tries off 23 tests...
Fullback - Beauden Barrett (6/10)
Just did his thing out the back and that's sweet, it let Barrett go for 78 metres off 8 carries on the counter-attack. Still popped up a few times for 8 passes at first-receiver, though he was lucky a missed tackle on Marika Koroibete didn't have consequences. Off after 61 minutes.
Reserve Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (7/10)
With 23 tests under his belt, Taukei'aho now genuinely has the perfect level of experience before the World Cup. Made 12/12 tackles in just 30 minutes, before ensuring the match finished with a 100% lineout ratio for the All Blacks.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (7/10)
Came on to do what he was picked for, provide experience in the key moments; speeding the game up with his ruck presence. 3 metres, 1 defender beaten, 3 carries, 3 passes, 5/6 tackles; all pretty satisfactory for a replacement prop right?
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (7/10)
Appeared to have some soreness in test cap number 48, but kept strong to give the 9 strong front-foot ball via his ruck clearances. Provided a pick-and-go twice for 2 metres, while 3/3 tackles will be satisfactory too.
Reserve Lock - Sam Whitelock (6/10)
While not the person you'd suspect to be in jersey number 19, Whitelock looks to overtake the record of Richie McCaw as most-capped All Black; McCaw and Whitelock have now both played their 144th tests off the bench. With 5 metres and 1 defender beaten off his lone carry and 3/4 tackles, it was a solid return from injury for Whitelock.
Reserve Loose Forward - Luke Jacobson (No rating)
Subbed on for Frizell with 14 minutes to go, so didn't play enough to be rated.
Reserve Halfback - Cam Roigard (7/10)
Did the honours to lift the Bledisloe Cup after a well-earned test debut. Roigard's passing and kicking were both sharp, while he went for 3 metres and 1 defender beaten off his 3 carries. Not bad to complete both of his tackles on debut either!
Reserve Midfielder - Anton Lienert-Brown (6/10)
Returned from a suspension to run 34 metres and beat 1 defender off 4 carries, delivering 6/6 tackles and 1 turnover in his 61st test. Is Lienert-Brown out of the danger zone, regarding his World Cup chances? If he is, that may mean bad news for Braydon Ennor.
Reserve Outside Back - Caleb Clarke (8/10)
I'm looking to produce an analysis video on Clarke and though I can't confirm an upload date, I can confirm that his match was one with strong impact off the bench, including a try for his first touch. With 37 metres, 1 defender beaten, 1 clean break, 5 carries, 2 passes, 1 offload and 2/3 tackles, Clarke's wider skillset is being unlocked and he's certain for World Cup selection.