Jordie Barrett 'phenomenal' as Wallabies invite another Eden Park horror show

Another year, another bleak night for the Wallabies in Auckland.

And unlike the drama at Marvel Stadium 10 days ago, there was little for Australia to bemoan other than a first 25 minutes when their discipline was disgraceful and virtually gifted the All Blacks a 23rd straight win at Eden Park.

After the grit, determination, and execution of skill in Melbourne, the Wallabies were way off in any of the requisite departments needed to even get close to New Zealand at their Auckland fortress.

Saturday night's 40-17 defeat was a complete and utter thrashing and leaves Dave Rennie's men with a 3-6 record for 2022.

"We lost collisions, we fell off way too many tackles, 29 tonight," Rennie said when asked to pinpoint his side's problems in Auckland. "We turned over ball and I think the All Blacks were better tonight ... we had enough ball down their defensive end and you've got to give credit to the defence.

"Too many penalties, we had a couple of yellow cards. While the first one didn't necessarily hurt us it would have taken a fair bit of juice out of us. And even the second, when you haven't got a hooker, you've got to find innovative ways of winning the ball and you sort of can't attack with the structures that we want to. Ultimately they hurt but I'd say that the All Blacks shaded us everywhere tonight and that's the result."

The match actually started brightly for Australia, as lock Jed Holloway cut through the heart of the All Blacks' defence inside the first minute. But moments later the Wallabies second-rower was headed for a 10-minute sit-down for a dangerous cleanout on Dalton Papalii.

It was the right decision, certainly, but confused Australian supporters would have immediately cast their mind back to an almost identical cleanout in Melbourne that saw Tyrel Lomax avoid a yellow card. In the space of 10 days it was a perfect example of the ridiculous inconsistency -- the citing commissioner may also check a nasty head-on-head collision instigated by Sevu Reece later in the match -- that rugby fans all over the world are tired of; not that the Wallabies could afford to rant and rave at the time.

While the rot didn't set in immediately for the visitors -- they were able to repel the All Blacks through some committed goalline defence and some luck at the scrum -- the early pressure would eventually take its toll on 24 minutes as Will Jordan scooted round the edge of Jordan Petaia to complete a sweeping All Blacks sequence and give the hosts a 10-0 lead after an earlier Richie Mo'unga penalty.

Australia threatened to respond but they were unable to break a black wall that eventually secured a penalty on their own line. Still, Australia came again, that was at least until Tom Wright took an inexplicable quick tap, kicked ahead, and ultimately invited the All Blacks to counter attack; when they did the hosts earned a penalty, kicked to the corner and were then awarded a penalty try after Dave Porecki was adjudged to have brought the maul down illegally.

Porecki also got a yellow card for good measure.

While Australia were able to claw back an 18-point deficit before the drama in Melbourne, there was never going to be any way back from 17-0 down at Eden Park. Marika Koroibete nicking the touchline with his left foot certainly didn't help, as Australia saw a try-scoring opportunity again amount to nothing.

And that deficit would indeed grow after the break as Sam Whitelock crashed over underneath the sticks, albeit with more than just a shred of doubt. Not only had the All Blacks skipper appeared to have lost possession, but Wallabies replacement Angus Bell also seemed to have grounded the ball.

But given the decision had gone up to the TMO as a try, both he and referee Andrew Brace agreed there was not compelling evidence to overturn the original call.

A Codie Taylor try and Mo'unga's boot took the score into the 30s before the Wallabies found a bit of luck themselves through a charge-down and a loose Jordan hand, which Folau Fainga'a scooped up to score.

But it would only be a blip on an otherwise glorious night for New Zealand at their spiritual home, as replacement hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho continued his try-scoring form, before Petaia nabbed a second consolation five-pointer for the Wallabies after the siren.

The 26-point drubbing, while not the Wallabies' worst at Eden Park, will be a massively deflating defeat for a group that had played with such character and conviction in Melbourne.

But the same problem areas keep bubbling to the surface for Australia.

Two first-half yellow cards among an opening stretch that saw the penalty count at 8-3 inside the first half hour; a lack of physicality and the loss of breakdown collisions; and mind-blowing brainfades like that of Wright's continue to thwart this team.

The All Blacks, meanwhile, look to be slowly turning the corner in a season when they have been well below their usual lofty heights. Saturday night's performance was not the perfect game, but it was a significant step up on their effort in Melbourne and, with the Springboks' home game against the Pumas to come, New Zealand are Rugby Championship winners-elect.

The Springboks will need both a bonus-point win and to defeat the Pumas by 40 points or more in Durban to claim the title.

"I think you save those answers to later in the year," a circumspect All Blacks coach Ian Foster said when asked if his team was finally hitting its straps.

"Right now, we can only do what's in front of us, which was to finish this championship really really strong and to show ourselves that the gains we're making we can put out on the park. So in that sense, I'm pleased with that."

The All Blacks were served brilliantly by the returning Ardie Savea in Auckland, so too flanker Dalton Papalii, locks Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, and their array of backline weapons, who each enjoyed moments of clean air in behind the Wallabies.

But Jordie Barrett, playing out of his usual position of fullback at No. 12, was perhaps the pick of the bunch. The youngest member of the Barrett All Blacks battalion ran with authority in midfield, often shunting Australian defenders backwards, to make an astonishing 17 carries, which netted a total of 82 metres. He also made a perfect nine from nine tackles.

Jordie Barrett has certainly given Foster something to ponder longer term, the All Blacks utility vindicating his coach's decision to select him at No. 12 rather than bow to public pressure and the calls for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to be given a start.

"I don't know that he's told me he's been waiting a wee while to start at 12," Foster replied when it was put to him that Jordie Barrett had long had designs on second-five. "He loves playing for the All Blacks, so he loves whatever jersey we give him,

"But I've been delighted with Davey's [David Havili] growth this campaign and I am delighted with what Jordie gave us today. I thought he had a phenomenal game really.

"He was very physical; with the ball, without the ball, he worked hard. He got some kicks in and he should be very proud of that effort."

Deciding where to play Barrett, and having the luxury of being able to bring another brother back into the 23, and use the other either elsewhere in the backline or super-sub role off the bench, must be a wonderful position to be in.

Unfortunately for the Wallabies, it is a problem they can only dream of. And now, under 12 months out from the World Cup, they have only underlined themselves as a team that promises so much, but one that only seldom delivers.

And that is not going to be anywhere near good enough in France.

"Like I said, we've got to be at our best to be competitive with sides like the All Blacks and you saw that last week," Rennie assessed of his side.

"That's the goal, we've got to get better until it's week in week out. If you go into a World Cup and you have a great performance one week and a poor one the next, then you're out."

A truer word might never have been spoken. Knockout rugby at the World Cup, at this stage, simply looks like a challenge the Wallabies cannot meet.