New Zealand head coach Ian Foster felt his side put down a marker for the rest of the series with Saturday’s dismantling of Australia in Auckland.
The All Blacks triumphed 27-7, outscoring the Wallabies by four tries to one, in game two of the Bledisloe Cup.
Inspired by young wing Caleb Clarke, the hosts extended their unbeaten run at Eden Park to 44 matches in an impressive response to last week’s 16-16 draw in Wellington.
Foster denied feeling relieved at the improved performance but accepts his side have now set a standard to which they must adhere.
“Relief is not something I feel at all,” he said. “This is what Test matches are about. If we don’t perform to the levels we want to, we know a lot of pressure comes on this team.
“In some ways, they’re great weeks. There’s nowhere to hide. There’s no way anyone can get complacent. And if we thought we were in the house last week, we got a reminder we weren’t.
“This week we got a reminder it wasn’t good enough – from ourselves and everyone around us.
“It’s a pleasing feeling. We’ve put a marker down, that’s the level we need to start at and we’ve just got to climb because it’s a tough series. This is a better Wallabies team than I’ve seen for a while. They want to stay in the fight, so we had to fight for 80 minutes.”
Clarke, 21, earned comparisons with all-time great Jonah Lomu with some powerful running, with one burst forward taking him through five tackles before setting up Ardie Savea to score.
“He just wants the ball and wants to run hard, and it’s quite a good thing for us to give him the ball and let him run hard,” said Foster.
12 – Caleb Clarke beat a match-high 12 defenders in this afternoon’s #BledisloeCup Test; only one @AllBlacks player has beaten more in a Test since the beginning of 2010 (Waisake Naholo – 13 v Australia, 18 August 2018). Strength.#NZLvAUS pic.twitter.com/DjDrtCphWK
— OptaJason (@OptaJason) October 18, 2020
Indeed, Australia coach Dave Rennie summed up the difference between the two teams as “tackle execution”.
“We missed too many tackles and we got put under the heat for it,” he said.
“You can’t give the All Blacks that much ball, they have too many athletes that can hurt you. But the boys are working hard and I’m pretty confident that in two weeks we will be a better side.”