Resurgent All Blacks power past Wallabies
July 18, 2009
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw burrows his way over for a try in Auckland
© Getty Images
New Zealand kicked off the defence of their Tri-Nations crown with a 22-16 victory over Australia in a titanic tussle at Eden Park in Auckland.
A try from returning captain Richie McCaw and 17 points from the boot of fly-half Stephen Donald rescued the hosts after a stuttering start had seen the Wallabies build an early lead on the back of a score from Berrick Barnes and the assured boot of No.10 Matt Giteau.
But the visitors were unable to contain the All Blacks once they had found their stride and subsequently suffered a deserved fourth successive defeat at the hands of their cross-Tasman rivals. The result, that sees New Zealand steal an early advantage in the race for this year's Bledisloe Cup crown, also extends the Wallabies' miserable record in Auckland where they have not won since 1986.
Australia dominated much of the opening period maintaining the form that had seen them impress in their three Test victories last month against Italy and France. In contrast, New Zealand's early season woes continued to blight all aspects of their game until they found some fluency before it was too late.
Australia opened the scoring after just five minutes with fullback Adam Ashley Cooper cutting through the New Zealand defensive line. The All Blacks failed to hold him in the tackle and allowed him to surge once more before the ball was recycled to Barnes who dummied his way over for a simple score that Giteau converted.
And the Wallabies' in-form No.10 extended his side's lead a few minutes later with a superb long-range penalty after the All Blacks had been penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown.
Donald was handed the opportunity to reduce the arrears soon after when Wallabies tight-head Al Baxter was penalised at a scrum but he pulled his effort wide of the posts. But thankfully for the home fans his second effort on the quarter hour sailed over.
The Wallabies were guilty of butchering a golden opportunity midway through the half when Giteau snaffled the ball in midfield before feeding Barnes who could not find his support with a try looking a mere formality.
The All Blacks' faltering lineout continued to cause the home side problems and another mis-directed effort led to McCaw infringing at the breakdown and Giteau capitalised by slotting the penalty with the help of the post.
A sustained spell of pressure then took the All Blacks close to the visitors' line but the well-regimented Wallabies' defence frustrated them time and time again until McCaw forced his way over for his 16th Test try and sixth against the Wallabies. Donald slotted the conversion to close the gap to three points.
From the re-start, a lack of support at the breakdown saw Neemia Tialata penalised for not releasing but Giteau failed to slot the long-range effort, pushing it wide of the posts. Donald would make the same mistake when offered the chance to level the scores just past the half hour mark.
With the opening period drawing to a close, Donald scythed through the Wallabies' line in a rare clean break but the move was snuffed out to leave Australia three points clear as they headed to the tunnel.
The All Blacks wasted no time in levelling the scores after the re-start with Donald the beneficiary after Luke Burgess had been penalised for playing the ball off his feet. And the hosts had the lead for the first time in the game moments later with Donald landing a long-range kick. The pattern of free-flowing penalties continued with the All Blacks handing Giteau the chance bring the sides level from in front of the posts which he duly took.
Replacement prop Owen Franks was lucky to escape a yellow card for wading into a spat between Ma'a Nonu and Drew Mitchell but the resulting penalty gave the Wallabies a good field position. However, the much-improved All Blacks defence offered no further reward.
A clearance from Giteau was charged down by Jerome Kaino on the hour mark and although they were unable to conjure a try the Wallabies conceded the penalty that allowed Donald to take his personal tally to 14 points and with it give his side the lead once again. New Zealand were guilty of a lack of discipline following the re-start with Conrad Smith failing to roll away. Giteau pulled his latest attempt wide of the posts.
The All Blacks continued to apply the pressure as the game entered the last ten minutes and their forwards were rewarded when Stephen Moore was caught on the wrong side at a ruck on the 22. Donald's successful kick gave the hosts some breathing space as the rain began to pour down.
A loose kick from replacement scrum-half Piri Weepu gave the Wallabies an attacking scrum with the clock running down but a simple mistake from Wycliff Palu, who failed to take a free kick correctly, handed the ball back to their rivals.
The tiring Wallabies battled courageously in a bid to find a much-needed try but the All Blacks' superior defence saw them through to take the opening spoils in this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Jason Eaton, Kieran Read, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko.
Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, 13. Stirling Mortlock (captain), Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Richard Brown, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Dean Mumm, Phil Waugh, David Pocock, Will Genia, James O'Connor
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: M Jonker, C Wessels Television Match Official: S Veldsman
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa