The All Blacks, besieged by criticism and the pressure of expectation all week, regained their pride with a performance in Auckland that sent a powerful warning to the South Africans two weeks ahead of their meeting in Cape Town.
New Zealand showed their response to the hurt and humiliation heaped on them by the Australians in Sydney seven days earlier by hammering home a four-tries-to-one win at Eden Park, a performance that showed their rivals they are far from finished. It put them top of the log as the Tri-Nations heads to South Africa this month.
The words of the All Black captain, Richie McCaw, afterwards will be carefully digestedby the Springboks. "When you lose two in a row it's a measure of how you get back on the horse," he said. "We've set the standard now and we just can't afford to go back so we've got to carry on and hopefully get better."
The determination of Graham Henry's team to make amends for their defeat in Sydney was a major factor, but there were two specific areas that laid the foundations for victory: the breakdown and the line-outs. The Springboks lost to Australia in Perth because they conceded 25 turnovers; likewise the All Blacks in Sydney last week, when conceding 26.
Yesterday, the Wallabies conceded 24 against eight, a statistic which indicated that the flow and continuity that is at the heart of their game was missing. But New Zealand also thrashed Australia at the line-outs, winning all their own throws and snatching eight. Ali Williams was superb. When Tatafu Polota-Nau took over at hooker from Stephen Moore after 51 minutes, the Wallabies line-out imploded.
As if those two key areas were not enough for New Zealand, they were also markedly superior at the scrums because the South African referee, Mark Lawrence, penalised the Australians for collapsing. When they could do that no more, their back row had to stay bound, giving New Zealand a crucial advantage of a yard or two in broken play.
The Wallabies' Kiwi coach, Robbie Deans, got one thing right. After New Zealand's defeat in Sydney, he had warned: "These guys will be hurting; you will see the outcome in Auckland."
Behind the winning forward performance, the authoritative Daniel Carter kicked superbly, landing seven of his nine shots at goal for a personal tally of 19 points. The Wallabies, all too often forced to play on the back foot, retreating under unrelenting pressure, could not get into the game and were playing catch-up from an early stage, with inevitable mistakes.
New Zealand's tactics were far simpler, much more structured and altogether more effective than the previous week. They went back to basics, winning the ball with a fire and passion that intimidated the opposition and kicking cleverlyfor position, the half-backs, Jimmy Cowan and Carter, shrewdly turning the Australians and driving them back. In Sydney, caught in a muddle over the experimental laws, they had resembled headless chickens and played into Australia's hands. This time it was different.
Australia slithered to an early 18-3 deficit after the All Black prop Tony Woodcock burrowed over for tries after 21 and 24 minutes, the first from a ruck near the line and the latter from a line-out tap-down by the outstanding Williams. Carter's two conversions and a penalty gave his side a handsome advantage, but eight minutes before half-time the Wallaby full-back, Adam Ashley-Cooper, scorched over for a try to reduce the lead after Conrad Smith's missed tackle on Stirling Mortlock. Carter's third penalty made it 21-10 at the break.
The All Blacks remained in charge in the second half. Ma'a Nonu powered over for a try four minutes in, finishing off a one-two with Sitiveni Sivivatu after Australia made a mess of their own line-out throw.
At the heart of the All Black recovery was McCaw, who had a titanic game in the loose on his return from injury. His presence at the breakdown helped turn the tables on the Wallabies, yet for all their superiority New Zealand looked like missing out on a fourth try and a bonus point until the final minute, when Australia conceded yet another turnover. Nonu got away down the left and although he seemed to lose control of the ball as he dived through Lote Tuqiri's tackle, the try was awarded by the video referee. It rounded off a perfect night for the All Blacks.
McCaw said: "I'm pretty proud. It was not very nice being outmuscled in Sydney; the boys were hurting all week."
Mortlock, Australia's captain, said ruefully: "We couldn't get into the game and it was almost a complete role-reversal from last week."
New Zealand: Tries Woodcock 2, Nonu 2; Conversions Carter 2; Penalties Carter 5. Australia: Try Ashley-Cooper; Conversion Giteau; Penalty Giteau.
New Zealand: M Muliaina; R Kahui (S Donald, 75), C Smith (A Tuitavake, 68), M Nonu, S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan (P Weepu, 73); A Woodcock, A Hore (K Mealamu, 66), G Somerville (J Afoa, 58), B Thorn (A Boric, 78), A Williams, J Kaino (A Thomson, 74), R So'oialo, R McCaw (capt).
Australia: A Ashley-Cooper (D Mitchell, 40); P Hynes, S Mortlock (capt), B Barnes (R Cross, 74), L Tuqiri; M Giteau, L Burgess; B Robinson, S Moore (T Polota-Nau, 51), A Baxter, J Horwill, N Sharpe (D Vickerman, 27-37; 51), P Waugh (H McMeniman, 58), W Palu, G Smith.
Referee: M Lawrence (South Africa).