SYDNEY, Australia -- And the Wallabies thought that was bad a night out 12 months ago.
Australian rugby sank to a horrifying new low at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night as a ruthless All Blacks outfit vented their frustrations from the drawn British & Irish Lions series, dishing out a rugby lesson to a Wallabies side that was little more than cannon fodder. Well, for 50 minutes anyway.
The Bledisloe opener looked more like a Rugby World Cup game featuring New Zealand and a minnow nation as the Wallabies had little answer to the All Blacks' mix of speed, power and skill. That the Australians missed a double-decker busload of tackles certainly did help their cause.
Early on it appeared the Wallabies might offer some sort of opposition as they moved up field, at times even threatening to poke their noses through the defensive line. But they could manage only two penalties while the All Blacks ripped through the heart of the Australian defence, dancing down the touchline with effortless ease.
Liam Squire set the tone for a scintillating half of attacking rugby from the All Blacks when he skipped down the left touchline for the game's opening try on 10 minutes, before Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty added doubles, and Sonny Bill Williams wrote his name on the scoresheet before halftime. Job done.
The home fans among the 54,846 on hand looked on in stunned disbelief with the score at 40-6 at the break while their All Blacks counterparts beamed from ear to ear - the controversial finish to the Lions series now nothing more than a distant memory.
Playing just his third Test, Super Rugby's standout player of 2017 Damian McKenzie enjoyed a marvellous first Bledisloe foray; the diminutive but elusive fullback cutting through the Wallabies at ease as he helped set the platform for a handful of the All Blacks' six first-half tries. But it was the All Blacks' collective catch-and-pass skillset that shone, something that went missing for much of the final two Tests against the Lions.
And then there was the tissue-paper-like Wallabies defence that fell off tackles, made terrible defensive decisions and basically lacked any desire whatsoever to hurt the All Blacks in the tackle.
The Wallabies compounded their missed tackles with simple errors in attack, an offer the All Blacks gleefully accepted just four minutes after the break when McKenzie was rewarded for his stellar first half via an unselfish Ioane. Four minutes later it was Ben Smith's turn, the only surprise that it had taken Ben Smith 48 minutes to get in on the action.
With 48 minutes on the clock, the All Blacks had scored 54 points.
It certainly won't be an evening that Wallabies debutant Curtis Rona forgets in a hurry, but at least he had a try on his Test bow to soften the blow. Rona's five-pointer stemmed the flow of 47 straight All Blacks points, and the Wallabies soon had their second through replacement Tevita Kuridrani, who worked a one-two with Folau to cut through the All Blacks' defence. Suddenly it was only 54-20.
Kurtley Beale further reduced the gap again when he swooped on a loose ball and ran 50 metres to score the Wallabies third just after the hour mark, adding further respectability to the contest.
In what was a bizarre final quarter, Folau was then awarded a try despite what looked to be giant forward pass from Bernard Foley. But neither referee Wayne Barnes, assistant Nigel Owens nor the Television Match Official saw it that way and the margin was now just a paltry 20 points.
But it did little more than paper over the Grand Canyon-like cracks in this Wallabies outfit. The job done, and then some, by halftime, it was no surprise the All Blacks eased up. The world champions proving a major point on the paddock, after a tumultuous week off it. Coach Steve Hansen won't be thrilled by the way his side faded to finish with the 54-34 win, but he will be ecstatic with what was a devastatingly brilliant first 50 minutes.
And the All Blacks know they are now just 80 minutes away from another year of ownership of the Bledisloe Cup. That job, in all likelihood, will be completed in Dunedin in seven days' time.
It's up to the Wallabies to make a game of it. To halftime at least.