Rugby World Cup: All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup, seal Rugby Championship clean sweep with outstanding victory over Wallabies

The All Blacks have secured a Rugby Championship whitewash and retained the Bledisloe Cup for a 21st straight occasion with a 38-7 victory over Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

With convincing wins over Argentina and South Africa already in the bank, Ian Foster's men added the scalp of Eddie Jones' Wallabies, going three from three to start the year as they build towards the Rugby World Cup in France.

But, while their two previous wins were built on fast starts, Saturday's victory came with a trademark second-half assault from the All Blacks.

Scott Barrett against the Wallabies.
Scott Barrett against the Wallabies. Photo credit: Getty Images

After trailing 7-5 early in the first half, the All Blacks ran in 33 points without reply against a shell-shocked Wallabies outfit, bereft of confidence with only one win in their last seven tests. 

Scott Barrett continued his outstanding year with a phenomenal display in the second row, while Mark Telea did his best to convince selectors he's the man to wear No.11 moving forward. 

While impressive in the early stages, Australia were hit hard by the loss of captain Allan Alaalatoa, who was taken from the field on a stretcher with an apparent ankle injury late in the first half.

And needing no second invitation, the All Blacks ran in try after try in the second half to overwhelm a Wallabies side still winless since Jones replaced Kiwi Dave Rennie at the helm earlier this year. 

New Zealand's win was the All Blacks' first at the MCG since 1997, after the last trans-Tasman clash at Australia's sporting colosseum went the Wallabies' way in 2007.

Victory also means both sides will play out a dead rubber next weekend, with a second match to be held at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium, leaving Australia having to wait until 2024 at the earliest in their attempt to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup.

After a tentative start from Australia, the All Blacks opened the scoring with an exclamation mark for the third game in a row. 

From a Wallabies lineout, halfback Tate McDermott was hammered by Scott Barrett, losing the ball in the tackle as Shannon Frizell dived on the loose ball to open the scoring.

Shannon Frizell against the Wallabies.
Shannon Frizell against the Wallabies. Photo credit: Photosport

But while the All Blacks' first two wins of the season were marked by fast starts and not relenting after taking the lead, the Wallabies didn't allow their trans-Tasman foes to keep their foot on the gas.

A break from winger Mark Nawaqanitawase gave the Wallabies field position, allowing No.8 Rob Valetini to extend and score between the posts, as Gordon's successful conversion saw the All Blacks trail for the first time in 2023 at 7-5 down.

The All Blacks looked to have scored next, as Telea went over after what appeared to be a quick tap and go, only for the ball to have been ruled to not have gone forward off the winger's foot.

However, the previous play saw Wallabies second-five Samu Kerevi commit a professional foul to lead to Telea's tap in the first place, and reduced Australia to 14.

Despite the numerical advantage, though, it took the All Blacks nearly eight minutes to capitalise, before Codie Taylor put the visitors back in front from a lineout drive in the left corner.

Down 12-7, the Wallabies were hit again by the loss of Alaalatoa, who's exit saw Australia lose all composure after initially matching the All Blacks blow for blow.

And sniffing blood in the water, the All Blacks struck with the final touch of the first half, patiently playing out 21 phases before Richie Mo'unga sent Will Jordan over in the right corner, and successfully converted for a 19-7 lead. 

Jones went to his bench early in the second half, emptying his reserves to see Quade Cooper return to the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2016.

Mark Telea scores against Australia.
Mark Telea scores against Australia. Photo credit: Photosport

But after he replaced Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou was shown a yellow card for a high shot on opposite Nepo Laulala, literally adding insult to injury as the affectionately dubbed 'Tongan Thor' limped from the field, hurt. 

And from the resulting penalty, the floodgates opened as the All Blacks went to their bench. 

Caleb Clarke scored with his first touch of the night as the All Blacks twisted the knife, before Mark Telea got the try he deserved, sent over by Jordan on the right. 

Another All Blacks break turned Telea from scorer to creator, setting up Rieko Ioane for the All Blacks' sixth, sparked by a break downfield by Anton Lienert-Brown, making his first appearance of the season after suspension. 

Richie Mo'unga was denied a stunning solo effort, after gathering his own kick - but was judged to have pushed Marika Koroibete off the ball. 

The All Blacks continued to chance their arm until the final whistle - even seeing the likes of Dalton Papali'i attempt kicks through the Wallabies' line - as time ultimately ran out for more players to get on the scoresheet. 

But with two tests to go until the Rugby World Cup, Ian Foster's All Blacks are continuing to put the world on notice that they will be contenders come France later this year.

All Blacks 38 (Frizell, Taylor, Jordan, Clarke, Telea, Ioane tries; Mo'unga 4 conversions)

Australia 7 (Valetini try; Gordon conversion)