All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup
August 24, 2013
Tony Woodcock celebrates his 100th Test cap in the best fashion
© Getty Images
New Zealand continued their dominance and mastery of Australia in the Rugby Championship Test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday to retain the Bledisloe Cup, a trophy the Wallabies are now yet to hold since 2002.
The Wallabies dominated possession and territory for the opening 30 minutes of the first half, but the All Blacks then scored 15 unanswered points to take a grip on the Test as the visitors were left to lament once again poor one-on-one defence and an outgunned scrum. Ben Smith scored two tries in the final 13 minutes of the first half, including a sucker punch on half-time, to turn the tide of the match, and the Wallabies never recovered as they struggled to play catch-up in the second stanza.
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Andy Withers
Australia failed once again to involve Israel Folau to any great intent, but he did give them a late glimmer of hope with a 75-metre intercept try before New Zealand iced the result with their fifth penalty goal.
The All Blacks have now defeated Australia in 15 consecutive Tests in New Zealand, dating back to the Carisbrook Test in 2001, and their Bledisloe Cup victory celebrations were given extra fizz with grizzled prop Tony Woodcock having become just the fourth Kiwi to win 100 caps. Woodcock also celebrated having played a key role against Wallabies scrum anchor Ben Alexander, who was also guilty of costly errors around the ground.
"We were made to defend for a while, we were perhaps beaten to the punch a little bit for the first 30," New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said.
"But I'm proud of the way the guys stuck in there. The momentum changes in games at times, and we just had to wait for our opportunities; and we took them ... .we were under the pump there for a while and to keep them to only six points is handy; then we made the mistakes of theirs pay. We reflect on the past two weeks and it's by no means perfect, but to get the win and realise you've still got areas to improve on is why you keep turning up."
The Wallabies looked good in claiming a 6-0 lead in the opening quarter, and they can feel unlucky not to have been ahead by more. The All Blacks were fortunate not to have Ma'a Nonu sin-binned for a 20th-minute shoulder charge on James Slipper, while No.8 Kieran Read could have been yellow-carded for a cynical professional foul at the ruck after a 40-metre break by Christian Leali'ifano. Australia played direct rugby and unsettled the All Blacks' lineout, but they failed to take maximum advantage of their opportunities. By contrast, the All Blacks scored at will when they had possession in dangerous positions.
Smith scored his first try after Read had claimed a midfield bomb and the All Blacks caught the Wallabies short with quick hands down the right side.The winger scored his second try after Nonu had buckled through Matt Toomua's tackle before feeding Steven Luatau to run through Alexander.
Australia could have regained the lead after half-an-hour, if not for a dubious overturned penalty 30 metres out straight in front, but they cruelled themselves in promising positions for the remainder of the match - highlighted by their inability to finish a 70-metre break by James O'Connor just after half-time. With the backline set but ignored, Alexander was penalised for not releasing after a series of bash-and-barge pick and goes from the ensuing penalty and driving maul.
The teams play a third and final Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin - a non-Rugby Championship fixture - in two months' time. Before then, the teams each must play South Africa and Argentina home and away to conclude their Rugby Championship campaign, and Wallabies captain James Horwill conceded "we've got to be better for 80 minutes".
"There were parts good but we weren't good enough for 80 minutes," Horwill said.
"We let them into the game: we did some stupid things and they capitalised; we've got to be better. We need to make sure we get those 50-50 balls and we don't turn over easy possession. When we put them under pressure and worked them down in their end, we looked good; then we let balls slip, we let balls drop, and they jumped on balls, we dropped high balls and gave them momentum, and in the end they capitalised with points."
New Zealand confirmed their trans-Tasman dominance in Wellington (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with AAP
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape