New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu believes the All Blacks have silenced their staunchest critics after a convincing 32-12 win over Australia in the Tri-Nations opener in Christchurch on Saturday.
Playing with a full-strength line up for the first time this season, coach Graham Henry's New Zealand side trounced Australia by four tries to two to erase any doubts over the team's form after three scrappy wins over Ireland and Argentina in recent weeks.
Some observers had been critical of Henry's decision to rotate his squad in the past three games, citing the need for consistency and time to gel as a unit.
But, according to man-of-the-match Mealamu, the dominant performance over Australia was "instinctive".
"I think we just clicked and we had a bit more focus," said Mealamu.
"It's an instinctive thing. You know where (your team-mates) are going to be and things like that.
"I thought it was a great team effort on Saturday and the boys played really well. I think it is a good step up from the last couple of weeks and we are heading in the right place."
One aspect that pleased Mealamu was the way the team was able to increase the intensity when Australia went a man down following the yellow card for Wallabies number eight Rocky Elsom for repeated ruck infringements.
"I think it was good we were able to apply pressure when they had one man down," said Mealamu, who scored two tries
in five minutes to turn the match for New Zealand when Elsom was off the field.
"It is quite hard when you have a loose forward out, especially in defence, and I think we exploited that."
Mealamu was also impressed with the New Zealand scrum's powerful display over the inexperienced Wallabies front row combination of Greg Holmes, Tai McIsaac and Guy Shepherdson.
He added: "We put some good pressure on from the start but with the Aussies, they are a team that will always come back at you. So we just needed to make sure that every scrum we had to we kept that pressure up."
Mealamu also issued a warning ahead of the re-match on July 29, saying: "The next time we play them they are going to be coming at us a lot stronger."