The Rugby Championship

How the formidable All Blacks won 17 straight matches

For the third time in their history, New Zealand have mounted a run of 17 consecutive wins to equal a record for a tier one nation that only South Africa have matched.

A sensational period spanning just over 14 months has seen the All Blacks lift the 2015 Rugby World Cup and 2016 Rugby Championship trophies, transitioning through the loss of key players seamlessly to remain the most formidable force in rugby.

Ahead of Saturday's shot at creating a new landmark when they take on Australia, we take a look at how the southern hemisphere powerhouse put together their remarkable streak.

 

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

After a 27-19 defeat in the first Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Sydney on August 8, 2015, the All Blacks returned to winning ways at Eden Park one week later. Quade Cooper's early penalty put the Wallabies ahead, but New Zealand responded with Dan Carter adding eight points to a Dane Coles try for a 13-6 lead at the break.

A penalty try early in the second half opened the floodgates, with Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith crossing by the 53rd minute as Steve Hansen's side surged ahead. Nonu added his second after the hour mark and Carter took his tally to 19 points, ensuring Israel Folau's consolation score was not enough to stop the trophy leaving New Zealand.

 

UNBEATEN HISTORY MAKERS

The All Blacks' World Cup defence got off to a shaky start at Wembley, losing captain Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith to the sin bin in the first half as Argentina led 13-12 at half-time. However, some second-half changes were followed by tries for Aaron Smith and Sam Cane to complete a 26-16 victory which was followed by comfortable triumphs over Namibia, Georgia and Tonga to top Pool C.

New Zealand learned the lesson from that opening-match scare, thumping France 62-13 in the quarter-finals with the help of a Julian Savea hat-trick in a flamboyant display. After grinding out a 20-18 win over South Africa, Hansen's side made history by becoming the first team to successfully defend the World Cup trophy by fending off a second-half fightback to defeat Australia 34-17 in the final at Twickenham.

Nonu's brilliant 40-yard surge helped put the All Blacks 21-3 up early in the second half, but David Pocock made the most of a yellow card for Ben Smith by crossing the whitewash before Tevita Kuridrani reduced the deficit to just four points. However, Carter's composure and a late score from Beauden Barrett kept the trophy in New Zealand.

 

INTO UNCHARTED TERRITORY

Despite their dominance in England, New Zealand were entering a new era when Wales came to tour last June. The All Blacks had lost the experienced quintet of McCaw, Carter, Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu to retirement, making it imperative they get off to a winning start in Auckland.

They did just that, but they had to battle from behind for a 39-21 triumph - Waisake Naholo, new skipper Kieran Read and Nathan Harris crossing inside the final 20 minutes of the first Test. Hansen's men added a 36-22 victory in Wellington before completing the whitewash with an indomitable display in Dunedin leading to a 46-6 thumping of Warren Gatland's side.

 

TO THE BRINK OF IMMORTALITY

The build-up had been overshadowed by the discovery of a listening device in a hotel room used by the visiting All Blacks, but all the talk after the Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies in Sydney was focused on a sensational New Zealand performance. Barrett proved himself a more than capable successor to Carter at fly-half, running in one of six tries and adding 12 more points from the tee, as the visitors ran out 42-8 victors for their biggest win on Australian soil.

The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup by beating Michael Cheika's side 29-9 in the return match and ran in eight tries against Argentina, claiming the title after seeing off South Africa 41-13 in Christchurch. The champions refused to let up, downing Argentina 36-17 in Buenos Aires before rounding off their campaign with a sixth straight win by crossing nine times to defeat the Springboks 57-15 in Durban.