All Blacks complete historic clean sweep
September 11, 2010
New Zealand's Mils Muliaina stretches the Australia defence at the ANZ Stadium
© Getty Images
New Zealand battled back to claim a 23-22 victory over Australia in an enthralling Tri-Nations clash at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
The All Blacks, looking to complete an unprecedented six-game Tri-Nations clean sweep, trailed the Wallabies 22-9 midway through the second half thanks largely to tries from James O'Connor and Adam Ashley-Cooper and the kicking exploits of Matt Giteau and Kurtley Beale. But scores from captain Richie McCaw and No.8 Kieran Read and the boot of scrum-half Piri Weepu carried the visitors to their 10th successive victory over their Trans-Tasman rivals in the final dramatic act of what has been a record-breaking battle for southern hemisphere supremacy.
In a bruising opening, a penalty against Wallabies flanker David Pocock at the breakdown handed the All Blacks the chance to open the scores and Weepu stepped up to slot the long range effort with just three minutes on the clock.
The Wallabies responded by giving the ball some air with fullback Beale making big gains before Quade Cooper was hauled down inside the 22. The ball was recycled as referee Mark Lawrence played an advantage and Lachie Turner squeezed over in the corner for what looked like a try - only to be denied by the Television Match Official who ruled that a last-ditch tackle by Cory Jane had forced the Wallabies' winger into touch. Play was brought back for the earlier penalty for off-side and Giteau slotted the simple kick to level the scores.
Back came the All Blacks and a great chip through from Aaron Cruden had the home side scrambling inside their own 22 with Beale doing just enough to deny winger Israel Dagg and centre Ma'a Nonu from notching an immediate response.
Dagg's pace was soon causing trouble again with turnover ball in midfield setting him free up the touchline and his kick in-field found fullback Mils Muliaina who was hauled down just short by a great tackle from Turner but O'Connor was penalised as he attempted to snuff out the danger. Weepu stepped up to edge his side ahead once more with the penalty.
A great pick and go by No.8 Ben McCalman at scrum time then caught New Zealand's Victor Vito asleep down the shortside and having drawn the defence he fed O'Connor who injected a blistering burst of pace to score in the corner for the opening try of the game with a quarter of an hour gone.
Giteau missed the conversion but the Wallabies were rewarded soon after for some more good work by centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and captain Rocky Elsom with Weepu penalised for his attempt to shackle opposite number Will Genia. But again Giteau failed to hit the target with his kick from out wide. However, it was a case of third time lucky when a penalty went against McCaw on the half hour.
Pressure from the Wallabies continued to force errors from the All Blacks and a high tackle by Nonu on Beale gave Giteau the chance to add to his tally but his kicking woes returned in the form of a wayward penalty attempt.
Tempers threatened to boil over at scrum-time as half-time approached but the focus soon returned to the rugby with the Wallabies carving their way through the All Blacks defence. Lock Mark Chisholm galloped into the 22 before Beale and Giteau went close but they had to settle for a penalty as the sides headed to the tunnel.
The All Blacks looked to step up their game following the re-start but the Wallabies weathered the storm before hitting back with the second try of the game. A lucky deflection inside the All Blacks 22 went the way of the hosts and was pounced upon by fly-half Cooper. Genia then changed the point of attack and found Ashley-Cooper at pace and he had the strength to crash over in the corner for the 50th try in this year's Tri-Nations.
Another miss for Giteau was followed by Weepu's third penalty with the Wallabies guilty of going off their feet but Beale gave his side some more breathing room having taken over the kicking duties from his team-mate.
The penalty count continued to rise on both sides with All Blacks replacement fly-half Colin Slade opting to kick to the corner for the lineout just past the hour mark. The catch and drive had the Wallabies under pressure and they were forced to concede the penalty. Corey Flynn and then Jerome Kaino were thwarted as the advantage was played before a thumping tackle on Nonu by Turner brought the crowd to its feet.
Play was called back for the earlier penalty and the All Blacks turned the screw at the scrum with a mistake from O'Connor allowing McCaw to coast in unopposed down the short side to celebrate his record 52nd Test as captain. Weepu slotted the extras to bring his side to within a converted score.
Another penalty - this time against Wallabies replacement Berrick Barnes for blocking - saw the All Blacks once again opt for the lineout and they continued to pepper the home side's defence. A chip through from Nonu was then scrambled away by Beale but the respite was all too brief. McCaw and then Jerome Kaino took the All Blacks close before Read powered over from close range. That score saw the All Blacks set a new record for points scored in the Tri-Nations with Weepu's conversion extending that mark and giving New Zealand the lead with just six minutes of the game remaining.
Not content to sit on their narrow lead, centre Conrad Smith and lock Brad Thorn made big strides up field as the game built to a frenetic conclusion. But the Wallabies' defence held firm and a penalty enabled them to take the game to the All Blacks with the clock running down.
Australia were patient in their build-up but fatigue appeared to take its toll with some good work from Kaino drawing a timely penalty. The All Blacks rumbled the ball forward but a penalty gave the Wallabies one final lifeline. They secured the lineout but the ball went down in midfield to ensure the All Blacks claimed victory and created history.
The victory extends the All Blacks' current winning sequence to 15 matches, three short of the world mark - a target for their end of year Grand Slam tour.