All Blacks seal Tri Nations glory
September 3, 2005
The All Blacks celebrate after clinching the Tri Nations
© Getty Images
The All Blacks woke from a mid-test slumber, calling on a hat-trick of tries from winger Doug Howlett to beat Australia 34-24 and win a sixth Tri-Nations rugby title here tonight.
Howlett's third try with seven minutes remaining ensured there would not be an embarrassing defeat for a New Zealand side who established significant dominance up front but who bumbled much of their hard work behind the scrum.
A Wallabies side who were shut out in the opening 30 minutes to trail 0-20 threatened an astounding comeback with three rapid tries over the middle period of the game.
They reduced the margin to 19-20 with 30 minutes remaining before young replacement first five-eighth McAlister restored order with three pressure penalties.
Following a dramatic 31-27 win over the Springboks in Dunedin last weekend, it was a disjointed performance from an All Blacks, who headed South Africa on the Tri-Nations table courtesy of two extra bonus points.
They can boast a dominance in the first 10 years of the tournament, which has been won just twice each by the Wallabies and Springboks.
It was also New Zealand's 16th successive test victory on home soil, equalling their best winning run from 1987-90.
The Wallabies' recorded a fifth consecutive loss, their worst losing streak since 1968, and it is the first time they have finished a Tri-Nations tournament winless.
Australian captain and halfback George Gregan had a difficult night in his 114th test, equalling the world record for caps held by former English prop Jason Leonard.
He spent much of the early exchanges dealing with messy ball and forced into a welter of tackling.
However, the Wallabies' backs were far crisper than the All Blacks, led by a slick performance from first five-eighth Mat Rogers.
It was Rogers' first test in the position after playing further out the backline throughout his rugby league and union career.
The All Blacks dominated the early exchanges, the scene set by a powerful first scrum, while Richie McCaw led a physical display at the breakdown.
But were let down by basic handling mistakes, a reward for their pressure finally coming via a 14th minute penalty to first five-eighth Leon MacDonald.
They rattled in two unconverted tries in the next six minutes to McCaw and Howlett.
Howlett's came from a penalty tap kick by lock Ali Williams right in front of the goalposts and a crosskick to his unmarked Auckland teammate.
The audacious nature of the move so early in a test demonstrated the control the All Blacks had established.
Quick hands sent Howlett over for his second try on the half hour before Australia took advantage of a rare foray into New Zealand territory, a sharp-stepping run from winger Mark Gerrard setting up a try to lock Mark Chisholm.
With Australia down 5-20 at halftime, Gerrard crossed less than two minutes after the break, storming onto a slick inside pass from Rogers.
The Wallabies then climbed to within one point of the lead when winger Lote Tuqiri charged down a ponderous MacDonald clearing kick, toed ahead and scored.
MacDonald was then replaced by McAlister, who coolly kicked penalties in the 50th, 56th and 62nd minutes -- two from 45m out -- to provide breathing space for his team.
The visitors' weren't done, reserve winger Lloyd Johansson scoring with his first touch in test rugby after some more neat Rogers buildup work to keep them within five points.
However, Howlett's third try sealed the result after Wallabies fullback Drew Mitchell spilled an All Blacks chip kick.
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