Ma’a Nonu scored the only try of the game, but Australia were never at the races as they faltered under the All Blacks’ dominance up front and water-tight defence.
Piri Weepu kicked four penalties and Aaron Cruden chipped in with a drop goal to complete a comprehensive victory over the Tri Nations champions.
The All Blacks are in their first final in 16 years and with a chance of World Cup redemption, having lost to the French in the knockout stages in both 1999 and 2007. Based on France’s scratchy win against Wales and New Zealand’s complete destruction of Australia, the result would appear a formality on Sunday.
But Henry warned his men that the job is not yet done.
“I thought it was an outstanding performance, the boys were heroic out there,” Henry said.
“I am very proud. We need to build again for next week and do the same thing hopefully.
“We have got to come down from this game and it will take a couple of days. It is a huge game of rugby (next week). We have lots of history with France at World Cups. We respect them and it will be a big game next week.”
Henry warned: “But the job is not done. It is important we understand that and we get our feet back on the ground over the next two days and build for this Test.”
Aaron Cruden started at fly-half in the absence of both Dan Carter and Colin Slade, while the Wallabies were forced into a back-line reshuffle after losing full-back Kurtley Beale.
New Zealand played at a rip-roaring tempo and the Wallabies appeared shell-shocked, unable to cope, and they received an early let-off when Cruden just failed to pick out Cory Jane. But the All Blacks were not in a merciful mood.
Dagg outfoxed Anthony Fainga’a, fended off Rocky Elsom and then sent Nonu over for the first try with an outrageous one-handed off-load. Weepu missed with a conversion and a penalty to ensure there was still life in the gold and green jerseys.
David Pocock put in a phenomenal defensive performance but he was penalised twice in quick succession in his own 22 as the All Blacks flooded forward, this time with Cruden’s break past Digby Ioane, and Weepu finally found his range.
Australia needed to gain a foothold or the game was going to run away from them, and it came after Ioane was released by James O’Connor. Ioane ran a wonderful angle, fended off Keven Mealamu and then cut inside and drove for the line with Dagg hanging off him.
Jerome Kaino eventually halted Ioane’s charge but Richie McCaw was penalised for not releasing and O’Connor booted the Wallabies onto the scoreboard.
Cruden responded with a drop-goal and while he was playing with controlled authority, Cooper was rattled.
Australia captain James Horwill had predicted Cooper, public enemy number one in New Zealand, would produce the best game of his career. He could not have been more wrong.
Cooper was repeatedly targeted by high balls and his high-risk game sparked panic in the Wallaby ranks.
Cooper did keep his composure to slot a drop-goal after Australia’s forwards had hammered away at the New Zealand line and failed to find a chink in the defensive wall.
But Weepu slotted two more penalties either side of the interval to open an 11-point lead, and from there the game ran away from Australia.
Australia coach Robbie Deans – a former All Black assistant coach – believes New Zealand displayed their title-winning pedigree with their demolition of the Wallabies.
“The All Blacks showed tonight they are more than capable of winning.
“The intent is there, they are an experienced group. For the nucleus of them it is their third attempt, they are well versed, they are hungry and they have a lot of support around them. They will take a lot of stopping from here.”
Scorers for Australia: Pens: J O’Connor. Drop Goals: Q Cooper.
AUSTRALIA: A Ashley-Cooper, J O’Connor, A Faingaa, P McCabe, D Ioane, Q Cooper, W Genia, S Kepu, S Moore, B Alexander, D Vickerman, J Horwill, R Elsom, D Pocock, R Samo.
Replacements: R Horne for Faingaa (62), B Barnes for McCabe (47), J Slipper for Kepu (21), T Polota-Nau for Moore (66), R Simmons for Vickerman (22), B McCalman for Samo (60).
Scorers for New Zealand: Tries: M Nonu. Pens: P Weepu 4. Drop Goals: A Cruden.
NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, R Kahui, A Cruden, P Weepu, T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks, S Whitelock, B Thorn, J Kaino, R McCaw, K Read.
Replacements: S Williams for Nonu (72), A Ellis for Weepu (57), A Hore for Mealamu (64), B. Franks for O Franks (79), A Williams for Whitelock (57).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).