Bledisloe Cup: Two key errors cost Wallabies chance to really worry All Blacks

The Wallabies will live to regret two key moments in a Bledisloe Cup opener they were right in the thick of, only for a growing sense of self-belief to be snatched away just as it had started to build.

New Zealand have one hand on the trophy for another year -- and probably all but the thumb on their other, given their outstanding record at Eden Park -- after they again gave the Wallabies another lesson in nailing the clutch moments in Test rugby, and then struck with the foot-on-the-front ruthlessness that has for so long been their hallmark.

With next week's game again in Auckland following the reconfigured schedule, the Wallabies have precious little time to pick themselves from the 33-25 defeat up and somehow plot a route through the All Blacks' stronghold to keep the series alive.

Firstly, though, they will lament two key actions either side of halftime that gifted New Zealand two tries and allowed their hosts to build the lead they were never going to give up at their spiritual home.

The first was a simple offside error from skipper Michael Hooper just after the Wallabies had scored a brilliant opening try through Andrew Kellaway, while the second was a 50/50 cutout pass that Richie Mo'unga picked off and punished by running 70 metres to score.

The try before the break was particularly brutal given the Wallabies had managed what little the All Blacks had thrown at them to that point. The offside penalty, where players are pinged for advancing despite not being involved in the play -- a highly technical call but one that is a renewed focus of referees across the game -- gave New Zealand the territory they needed to score before the break.

That, combined with some wayward kicking from Wallabies No. 10 Noah Lolesio, albeit in swirling conditions, meant the All Blacks went in up 16-8 at halftime. When Mo'unga picked off Hunter Paisami's pass 11 minutes after the break, New Zealand's 23-8 advantage was never going to be relinquished.

"We gave up a soft one before halftime and an intercept not long after halftime, and the All Blacks were able to steal a bit of momentum there," Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.

"But we finished strong. We knew there'd be space in behind; unfortunately, the intercept, we go back short-side and put it in behind [instead] and maybe we score. But yeah, we're really happy with the impact we got off the bench and really happy with character.

"Last year in Sydney we got behind a bit and we started throwing things out our backside and chasing the game early, and got absolutely hammered. So yeah that was positive but we're still pretty disappointed."

The Wallabies had earlier struggled at lineout time, winning just one of their first six throws, before they eventually worked a brilliant long set-piece ball to a flying Paisami, the centre bursting through Mo'unga's tackle and then finding the perfect offload to Kellaway who had had too much pace for Sevu Reece from 20 metres out.

Kellaway, who was making his first run-on start in place of the suspended Marika Koroibete, was one of the Wallabies' best and barely put a foot wrong all match. In fact, many of the Wallabies' younger brigade weren't at all overawed despite the occasion.

But Reece's try from close range, which came after the Wallabies had been pinged for the offside from an attempted exit after Kellaway's try, was a brutal blow given its proximity to the halftime siren. Australia were able to defuse the rolling maul after the All Blacks kicked to the corner, but couldn't deny Reece from point-blank range a few phases later.

Mo'unga's intercept was then the first of three New Zealand tries in 14 minutes in the second half, just as they had done in Bledisloe II last year, with David Havili and Damien McKenzie's five-pointers blowing the score out in quick fashion.

The Wallabies deserve some credit for the three late tries they scored through Tom Banks and Jordan Uelese, which showed the Australians are getting good energy off the bench. That as Rennie says, showed the growing character that exists within his team.

But there is no doubt the All Blacks, safe in the knowledge the game was secure, also dipped in energy.

Still, the 80 minutes at Eden Park was not a complete write-off for Rennie's men.

Both sides will be better for the run, certainly it the All Blacks are unlikely to be as inaccurate as they were in the first half; but the Wallabies showed enough to suggest they are a team that might still be headed in the right direction.

This wasn't a step forward from their 2-1 series win over the France; the opposition was always going to be a level up in intensity, physicality and, as is the case with the All Blacks, ruthlessness. But it wasn't a big step back for Australia, either.

Whether Rennie can take his side to another level needed to meet what will be an improved All Blacks showing next week is an entirely different matter.

The team will certainly need to rally around fly-half Lolesio who, after missing just one shot in three Tests against France, left 12 points out on Eden Park on Saturday night.

"We've got a lot of faith in the kid, he was excellent against France," Rennie said of Lolesio. "But he's going to get better and better, he's 21, and there's a lot of young men around him as well.

"He's growing and an impressive kid, too; very confident, great worth ethic, he's spending a lot of time sitting around with Quade [Cooper] and the generic parts of his game and so on.

"He's been really impressive. He played really well tonight, but he had a rough night with the boot."

Nailing their early lineouts, among rugby's other key one-percenters, will otherwise be at top of the Wallabies' list, particularly given next week's opposition is the same as it was on Saturday night.

And so is the venue.