New Zealand secured second place in the 2009 Tri-Nations at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on Saturday with a convincing 33-6 win over Australia.
The daggers were out for Graham Henry and co. this week but the All Blacks answered their critics with their third victory over Australia this year, scoring three tries to none in a dominant display.
While the protagonists produced an entertaining game of rugby, the error count - by Australia at the breakdown and line-outs especially - made it clear to see why neither team could match the Springboks in this year's Tri-Nations.
In both regards the New Zealand were the better side. The All Blacks line-out has come under a lot of fire of late and while they made a marked improvement, the progress made must be taken with a pinch of salt considering Australia hardly bothered to compete when their hosts threw the ball in.
But let's take nothing away from the way the All Blacks approached the game. Three tries were just reward for their positive running and domination of possession.
Perhaps the real story here is Australia's inability to string two solid performances together. If you're going to play a running game, ball retention at the breakdown is primordial. The men in gold gave away possession while on attack far to easily, far too often - in stark contrast to their win over South Africa just two weeks ago.
Two months ago, many were convinced that Robbie Deans' Wallabies would be serious challengers for the title in 2009, but just one win from six games is not the kind of return expected from a team with such promise.
'Promise' - perhaps that is the key word here because for all their talent, this Wallaby side does not have the maturity needed to compete with the best as illustrated by James O'Connor's display in Wellington. The young full-back's potential for greatness is undeniable, but he had a bit of a nightmare at Westpac. You can't buy experience and one gets the distinct impression that he, like his side, are far from the finished product.
But back to the All Blacks, who looked the more dangerous side in the first quarter and their enterprise on attack was rewarded with a 9- 3 lead as Dan Carter and Matt Giteau exchanged penalties.
When Berrick Barnes slotted a drop for the visitors and Isaia Toeava was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle, the Wallabies looked set to grab control of the game.
But Mils Muliaina and Cory Jane had other ideas. Muliaina's clever high kick placed O'Connor under pressure and Jane did brilliantly to snatch the ball from him in mid-air before making a dash for the line.
Carter's conversion gave New Zealand a 16-6 lead and that's how the scores would remain as the All Blacks finished the half with all fifteen men on the field and seven points better since Toeava's yellow card.
Speaking of Toeava, the outside centre was in sparkling form, showing why Henry had given him the number thirteen jersey. If only his partnership with Ma'a Nonu had flourished in South Africa they way it did in Wellington I hear All Black fans saying.
In the second period Richie McCaw's men did a excellent job of closing Australia down.
Forced to play catch-up, the Wallabies grew more and more ragged as New Zealand turned the screw tighter and tighter.
With the scrums an absolute mess for both sides and New Zealand enjoying free reign in the line-outs, Australia were starved of quality possession.
When, on occasion, the visitors were able to build some kind of momentum, the home side's loose trio were at their pilfering best at the rucks- significantly stealing the ball back on their own line on Australia's only real crack at th whitewash.
The wheels came off the Wallaby cart in the last ten minutes when first Ma'a Nonu burst through Giteau's channel and then shook off three challengers to score New Zealand's second try.
Joe Rokocoko dived over in the corner in the dying moments to rub salt in the wounds and cap a deserved win for the home side.
Man of the match: He only played 60 minutes, but Cory Jane's contribution was a telling one. It seems like a easy choice to pick the try scorer but way Jane found his way to the try-line was significant considering the All Blacks trouble under the high ball in South Africa. Whenever Jane had the ball, something seemed on as he injected some creative spark into his backline. The home loose trio deserve a mention too.
Moment of the match: Easy. Jane's try gave the All Blacks a ten-point lead (despite being a man down). From then on, the Wallabies were playing catch up...
Villain of the match: Nothing to mention here.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Jane, Nonu, Rokocoko
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 4
Yellow card: Toeava (NZ - 29th min - High tackle)
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Rodney So'oialo, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Hosea Gear.
Australia:15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 George Smith (c), 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Peter Hynes.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Weather: Clear skies, still 10°C
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Ross Hastie