All Blacks outmuscle Wallabies
August 7, 2010
New Zealand's Mils Muliaina dives over to score a try in Christchurch
© Getty Images
New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup and edged nearer to reclaiming the Tri-Nations crown with a 20-10 victory over Australia at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Tries from fullback Mils Muliaina and centre Conrad Smith and 10 points from fly-half Dan Carter gave the All Blacks a deserved victory but their 13th consecutive Test victory and ninth in a row against Australia owed a great deal to a rock-solid defensive display. A much-improved Australia notched a try through fullback Kurtley Beale and the boot of No.10 Matt Giteau chipped in with a conversion and a penalty but they lacked a cutting edge and were eventually outmuscled by their old rivals.
After a run of try-laden spectacles in this year's Tri-Nations, including the All Blacks' 49-28 romp in Melbourne a week ago, the latest fixture descended into a battle of attrition with the three tries coming in the first quarter hour before defence came to the fore and errors crept into the match.
The Wallabies began brightly but struggled to make a significant impression in the All Blacks' resolute defence and instead it was the hosts who broke the deadlock in a lung-busting opening. A great break from lock Tom Donnelly did the early damage before the ball was worked wide to wing Joe Rokocoko and he fed Muliaina, who danced his way down the touchline to score in the corner. Carter added the extras to cement the home side's lead but the Wallabies hit back immediately.
Carter coughed up the ball deep inside the Wallabies 22 and the Australian forwards pounced before Beale injected an impressive burst of speed to take him clear of the All Blacks defence for the game's second try. Giteau slotted the conversion to bring the sides level once more but they would soon be chasing the game again.
Carter drew the attention of the Wallabies' defence in midfield before it was recycled to centre Ma'a Nonu and he promptly found his midfield partner Smith, who beat the cover defence to score in the corner. Carter turned the screw with his second conversion of the evening.
The All Blacks' eagerness in defence handed the Wallabies an offside penalty midway through the half and Giteau reduced the arrears to four points with the kick but they continued to struggle to make any significant gains with ball in hand. In contrast, the All Blacks peppered the Wallabies' defence with more success, although the pace of the game took its toll on both sides.
The All Blacks' lineout continued to offer the Wallabies hope but the visitors struggled to take advantage. However, the hosts were at their clinical best when Carter extended his side's lead with the boot after Australia scrum-half Will Genia had been penalised while isolated.
A quickly-taken lineout from New Zealand almost caught the Wallabies napping before the break and although they snuffed out the danger, they were soon on the back foot again. However, their scrum weathered the storm before the referee's whistle brought an end to the half.
New Zealand were happy to play the territorial game at the start of the second half but the Wallabies continued to press with ball in hand and they were rewarded with the first scoring opportunity when Smith was penalised at the breakdown - but Giteau's latest effort fell short.
The All Blacks' Tony Woodcock was then seemingly lucky to escape a yellow card for some questionable clearing out on Wallabies hooker Saia Faingaa with referee Jonathan Kaplan opting instead to issue a final warning to the prop and his captain Richie McCaw.
Both sides continued to labour admirably in a real arm-wrestle of a contest that was lit up by a great break from Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell but again the visitors failed to capitalise with the All Blacks' superior defence once again having the final say.
New Zealand looked to edge nearer victory with a penalty from scrum-half Piri Weepu but the scrum-half's long-range effort was wide and short. But they were handed an easier chance a few moments later when replacement Matt Hodgson was penalised and Carter made no mistake from straight in front for the first points of the second half.
Penalties also continued to blunt the All Blacks best attacking endeavours as the game drew to a close but their defence held the Wallabies at bay and kept them on course for Tri-Nations glory.
Defeat saw the Wallabies match their worst ever losing streak, a nine-Test nightmare from 1936-47, also against the All Blacks, and also extended their Bledisloe Cup drought for yet another year - with Australia not having laid claim to the sizeable silverware since 2002.
Victory cemented the All Blacks' place at the top of the Tri-Nations table and a single point from either their clash with South Africa in Johannesburg or Australia in Sydney later this month will see the southern hemisphere crown return to New Zealand.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.