The All Blacks record loss to the Wallabies in Perth left the proud rugby nation struggling to find positives Sunday with an increasing suggestion their golden days may be over.
“The intimidating aura which has served them so well fell with an almighty thud,” wrote Chris Rattue in the New Zealand Herald.
Not only were the reigning World champions humiliated by the 47-26 scoreline, but their record loss to Australia also ended a 10-year reign as the top-ranked side in the world, a decade in which they won the World Cup twice.
They will be restored as number one if Wales lose to England at Twickenham on Sunday.
“The fear factor is largely gone,” Rattue said of the All Blacks, adding there was a good chance they would not win the upcoming World Cup and the “long domination which the incomparable Richie McCaw inspired may well have disappeared forever.”
That the All Blacks played the second half with 14 men after Scott Barrett was red-carded only added to their woes but was not the cause, for even when they had the maximum number on the field they were being comprehensively out-played.
“All Blacks thrashed”, “Bledisloe Bashing”, “Wallabies shock All Blacks”, “Hansen has ‘egg all over face’,” screamed the headlines while Radio New Zealand, perhaps unable to face the truth, posted the headline “All Blacks beat Wallabies” on their webpage before giving the correct match details.
Tony Smith, writing for Stuff.co.nz, tried to find a silver lining by noting that Australia also beat New Zealand in the 2011 and 2015 southern hemisphere championship but it was the All Blacks who won the World Cup in both years.
Only four All Blacks have ever been sent off in Test history with Stuff’s Paul Cully noting French referee Jerome Garces was responsible for two of them in two years: Sonny Bill Williams against the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and then Barrett against the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday.
But Cully added: “A more uncomfortable truth lurks below the headlines that Barrett’s red card will attract: say it quietly but the Wallabies were already the superior team.”
Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald accepted there was a long “fix-it list” for the All Blacks and “the rest of the world tends to get overly excited by these lapses.
“But the All Blacks don’t really do terminal decline … there is no particularly daunting or unachievable task on it and a record loss one week can easily be a record win the next.”
Rattue, however, believed coach Steve Hansen was still searching for magic bullets, dreaming of ruling again, and the incident that highlighted the All Blacks predicament was not Barrett’s red card but came before that when Ardie Savea forced Michael Hooper’s head into the ground.
“It was an act of arrogance,” wrote Rattue.
“Those great All Black World Cup loose forwards of not long ago, McCaw and Jerome Kaino, didn’t bother with pointless cheap shots, an attitude which worked. Savea’s petulance revealed an All Black team which feels threatened and is frustrated by mounting failures.”