New Zealand beat an improved Australia outfit 20-10 in Christchurch on Saturday to retain the Bledisloe Cup, but will have to wait a little longer to win back their Tri-Nations crown.
The All Blacks needed five points from this clash at AMI Stadium to bring the Tri-Nations tournament to a premature end, however they could only manage two tries thanks to some strong defence by the Wallabies who kept their hosts at bay.
Richie McCaw and his troops now require just a lone bonus point from their remaining two away matches against Australia and South Africa to make it a fait accompli following the world's top-ranked team's thirteenth consecutive Test win.
The 10-point triumph also was a record-equalling ninth successive victory over Australia, who have now gone eight years without the Bledisloe Cup. The Wallabies delivered a vastly-improved showing on the previous week's debacle in Melbourne, but the All Blacks still had too much power and precision to deny their trans-Tasman rivals a much-needed victory.
The Wallabies continue to miss Quade Cooper, a player capable of breaking the line from the fly-half position. While Matt Giteau disappointed, his cause wasn't helped by an inconsistent showing by this forwards, as a large amount of possession often didn't translate into ground gained. It was a credit to the home defence and their work on the deck, but the Wallabies pack could have done better.
The All Blacks didn't have everything their own way at the tackle, often conceding penalties in their attempt to stifle the Australians. But when they did turn possession over, a well-placed kick or incisive counter-attack earned them great territory.
The game was not without its frustrations for the Wallabies, desperate to come back from their 49-28 hiding last week, as the All Blacks rode their luck with ruck infringements - twice they escaped with warnings but no yellow cards.
Although the Wallabies controlled possession for the first five minutes it was the All Blacks who scored first in a move which started when lock Tom Donnelly snapped up a turnover ball to charge 20 metres downfield.
When he was brought down on the 22m line by Kurtley Beale, the All Blacks quickly recycled and Mils Muliaina was sent over in the corner.
Dan Carter converted from the sideline and then went from hero to zero soon after the restart when he lost the ball in a tackle which resulted in David Pocock and Nathan Sharpe sending Beale on a 65m run to the line who outpaced Carter to score in a handy position for Giteau to convert.
Scores weren't levelled for long, though, with a defensive blunder from makeshift winger James O'Connor allowing All Blacks centre Conrad Smith an easy try in the thirteenth minute.
Instead of staying on his wing, O'Connor was caught in two minds as classy inside centre Ma'a Nonu exposed the youngster's inexperience with a lovely long pass to his partner in crime for a score in the corner.
Carter again nailed the sideline conversion to give New Zealand a 14-7 lead, before Giteau narrowed the gap to four points with a 20th-minute penalty goal after the All Blacks were caught offside.
The All Blacks went to the break enjoying a 17-10 advantage following a Carter penalty in the 33rd minute after Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia was pinged for not releasing.
There was definite change of mood by the All Blacks after half-time as the Wallabies mounted wave after wave of attacks. New Zealand put the brakes on their free-for-all running and turned more to their fly-half to kick them out of trouble as they withstood 30 minutes of pressure.
A Carter penalty produced the only points of the second half but the All Blacks were always in control as they wound down the clock. They may have to wait a few weeks to lift the trophy, but there's no doubt the title will be returning to New Zealand.
The Wallabies need to score bonus-point wins in their remaining three games and hope the All Blacks lose their remaining fixtures without consolation... highly unlikely.
Man of the match: Playing at home in Christchurch, Dan Carter showcased his extensive attacking arsenal: the darting runs, the chip-and-regathers, the probing punts, and the gap-manufacturing passes. To cap it all, he goaled every kick.
Moment of the match: Of all the tries scored, Mils Muliaina's effort wins our vote. In a word: brilliant.
Villain of the match: Tony Woodcock's clearance of Saia Faingaa from behind at the ruck was illegal and uncalled for. Playing in his 67th match for New Zealand, the All Blacks' most capped prop can count his lucky stars he didn't do his celebrating in the bin.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Muliaina, Smith
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 2
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Jo Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Benson Stanley
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Cameron Shepherd.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)
By Dave Morris