New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship account with a 27-19 win over Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship account with a 27-19 win over Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
In a tale of two halves in an overall scrappy game, the All Blacks did enough in the opening forty minutes of the match to bag four competition points as they kicked off the inaugural championship with a hard-fought victory.
The world champions raced to a commanding lead after scoring 18 unanswered points which left the Wallabies with a mountain to climb.
However, the hosts clawed their way back after trailing 18-10 at half-time and continued to stay in touch with their trans-Tasman rivals who had to work a little harder in the second half before Dan Carter sealed the deal with his fifth penalty goal on full-time.
Carter's three-pointer after the siren also denied the Wallabies a losing bonus point, which could prove vital in the overall standings later down the line.
Australia drew first blood after Berrick Barnes opened the scoring with an early penalty with barely three minutes gone on the clock, before Carter leveled matters in the 10th minute.
Three minutes later the All Blacks struck from a scrum outside Australia's 22. Two decoy runners in midfield allowed Carter to feed full-back Israel Dagg who stepped out of a tackle and then beat Kurtley Beale on the outside to score the opening try. Carter added the tricky conversion and the All Blacks were smiling with a seven-point lead (3-10) after 14 minutes played.
Australia were found wanting again after New Zealand's relentless pressure and masterly forwards overwhelmed their hosts who coughed up another penalty that Carter dualy converted into three more points.
Whilst the visitors' attack was giving the Wallabies a throbbing headache, so too was the All Blacks defence as Robbie Deans' troops hammered at New Zealand's tryline in a bid to narrow the ever-increasing scoreline but to no avail.
A dropped pass by Scott Higginbotham with Australia hot on attack and then another by Beale didn't help matters for the Wallabies either – the moans and groans from the home crowd becoming a regular feature.
The well-oiled black machine continued to rumble forward and with the Australians' defence once again stretched, Cory Jane finished off superbly in the corner for the world champs' second try of the night – Beale once again exposed out wide.
Carter's conversion missed by inches, but his team-mates wouldn't have been too concerned with an 18-3 lead. However, the same couldn't be said of their hosts, who looked down and out with eight minutes of the first half still remaining.
Finally, Australia struck gold when Digby Ioane made the intitial inroads after the wing found a chink in the All Blacks' armour only to be tackled inches short of the line. Nathan Sharpe wasn't to be denied from close range though, and the soon-to-be retired lock powered over. Barnes converted and the hosts headed into the half-time sheds with some restored confidence.
The second half became a battle of the boots as Carter and Barnes exchanged penalties. But, even after drawing the second half 9-9, the Wallabies weren't able to bridge the gap.
The result also means Richie McCaw and his merry men have taken a giant stride towards holding onto the Bledisloe Cup which has been in their possession since 2003.
Man of the match: All Blacks flanker Liam Messam repaid his coaches' faith by carrying his impressive Super Rugby form to the Test arena, while halfback pair Aaron Smith and Dan Carter proved once again to be a lethal combination. But the player who stood head and shoulders above the rest was Israel Dagg. The star full-back caused havoc whenever he touched the ball, bagged a try for his efforts and set up another.
Moment of the match: You just can't keep a good Dagg down! With only centimetres to work with, Dagg's 13th-minute touchdown after skinning his opposite number on the outside takes the cake.
Villain of the match: Despite an improved second half from Australia, they were unable to atone for Kurtley Beale's critical blunders in what was an error-prone performance by the full-back who will carry some self-inflicted psychological damage to Eden Park after letting in both of New Zealand's tries.
Pens: Barnes 4
For New Zealand:
Tries: Dagg, Jane
Pens: Carter 5
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 David Pocock (capt), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Drew Mitchell.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
By Dave Morris