New Zealand avenged last week's loss in Australia by recording a cerebral 39-10 victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday.
New Zealand avenged last week's loss in Australia by recording a cerebral 39-10 victory over the Wallabies in Auckland on Saturday, notching up a crucial bonus-point with the last move of the game.
The win moves New Zealand back to the top of the Tri-Nations table and removes the angry mob from Graham Henry's door – this was a perfect response from the besieged All Blacks.
Henry allowed himself a rare smile as Ma'a Nonu crashed over at the death to punctuate what has been a fortnight of introspection. It was the final act of a win built on hard work and iron resolve, and the wily old coach and his cohorts deserve to bask in the glory of this emphatic response.
With the spectre of a third straight defeat looming large, New Zealand stiffened the sinews and got back to basics. They were majestic at the line-out, indefatigable at the breakdown and canny with their options. In short, they were dominant in the all the areas in which they were outplayed last weekend.
For this, Henry owes a large debt of gratitude to Richie McCaw. The talismanic skipper returned to reattach heads to the decapitated chickens that masqueraded as All Blacks in Sydney.
Dan Carter, inevitably, also deserves praise for his efforts. The fly-half won rave reviews for his running game during New Zealand's back-to-back defeats but here he decided to play the role of puppet-master, and the All Blacks were all the better for it. His boot allowed his side to play the game on its own terms and the Australians were unable to gain anything more than a foothold.
Indeed, astute kicking led to New Zealand's first two tries – both scored by prop Tony Woodcock.
A beautifully weighted kick by Carter, who had traded penalties with opposite number Matt Giteau for a 6-3 lead to the All Blacks, resulted in a five-metre line-out to the Wallabies, who were then penalised for not throwing the ball five metres.
From the resulting scrum, the ball was spun wide to Nonu, who broke through the first line of defence. After a series of pick-and-goes that went close to the line, Rodney So'oialo popped the ball out to Woodcock, who burrowed under Giteau to score.
The prop went over for his second just moments after Adam Ashley-Copper was adjudged to have taken the ball dead in the gold corner after he collected what looked like a scooting grubber with one foot planted firmly in touch. Law 19 dictates that a 'catch' in such a stance would have handed the Wallabies the line-out, but the locals got the nod – presumably Ashley-Cooper had merely 'fielded' a stationary ball – and added mortal injury to grave insult.
The outstanding Ali Williams – who stole six gold line-out balls during the game – dropped the ball down at the apex of his jump and Woodcock burst between the two black pods to score.
Despite the setback, the Australians responded with a well-worked try of their own.
Giteau floated a delicious pass out to Mortlock who drifted outside Conrad Smith before setting Ashley-Copper on his way to the line.
Giteau's conversion reduced the deficit to 18-10 but that was short-lived as George Smith was penalised for playing the ball off his feet and Carter stepped up to slot his third penalty of the game to give the All Blacks a 21-10 lead.
The second half started with a roar for the home side, with Nonu charged over for the first of his two try.
The inside centre, who had been roughed up for by the local media in the build-up to the game, had a hand in the move three times after McCaw forced the turnover with a huge tackle on Australian scrum-half Luke Burgess.
The ball was scooped up by hooker Andrew Hore and made its way out to Nonu, who charged through the gap, fired the ball off to wing Sitiveni Sivivatu before collecting it again and charging for the line.
Carter's conversion gave the All Blacks a healthy 18-point cushion with just over 20 minutes to go.
That lead was pushed out to 24 points with successive penalties for Carter before Nonu wrapped up a gripping encounter when he raced away to touch down in the corner at the death, with the try being confirmed via video referral.
It wasn't a patch on Jean-Luc Sadourny's famous late effort at Eden Park back in 1994, but New Zealand will take it: it could prove to be a turning point.
Man of the match: The Wallabies were simply bullied out of the game, with the All Blacks doing a fine job on Matt Giteau, who threatened to turn the tables on a number of occassion. Ma'a Nonu put in a fine performance, Jimmy Cowan had his best ever Test, and Dan Carter was clever and effective. However, New Zealand's dominance was carved out by their granite forwards. Tony Woodcock deserves hefty praise for his two-try effort whilst Richie McCaw was, as always, majestic. But Ali Williams just pips the great man with a titanic display at the line-out and in the loose.
Moment of the match: Plenty of fine moves, with Australia's try being the pick of the scores. But we'll opt for Tony Woodcock's second try. It was a well-worked move straight off the training paddock. Better than the ploy was the prop's embarrassed blush as he trotted back to his own half. We have new laws, referees with highlights, centres in make-up and tight shiny jerseys, so it's good to see that some things in rugby will never change. Props, know your place!
Villian of the match: George Smith deserves a ticking-off for a high tackle on Conrad Smith late in the game, but the moment followed a case of mistaken identity in which Smith was blamed for an indiscretion perpetrated by Wycliff Palu, so we'll decline from making matters more confusing still! No award.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Woodcock 2, Nonu 2
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 5
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Afoa, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Anthony Tuitavake.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Phil Waugh, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Hugh McMeniman, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Ryan Cross, 22 Drew Mitchell.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), James Bolabiu (Fiji)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)