New Zealand 26 Australia 12
New Zealand overpowered Australia to retain the Tri-Nations title and Bledisloe Cup at a rain-swept Eden Park in Auckland today.
With two titles on the line in trying conditions, the All Blacks put to bed any fears of an upset with an emphatic second-half performance.
After warming up in drizzly conditions, both sides returned to the field shortly before kick-off only to be greeted by torrential rain.
Better suited to the slippery conditions, the All Blacks took an early lead thanks to some accurate kicking by playmaker Dan Carter.
But in a competitive opening 40 minutes, the Wallabies made equally good use of their chances to trail just 12-9 at half-time.
After the break, penalty goals continued to be the only source of points for both sides until two personnel changes by New Zealand boss Graham Henry gave his side the impetus in attack.
With reserve scrum-half Brendon Leonard and hooker Keven Mealamu sent into the fray, the All Blacks scored the match’s only try in the 58th minute, before another Carter penalty in the dying stages sealed the result.
The hosts drew first blood after nine minutes, the boot of Carter putting the first three points on the scoreboard.
Boasting their fair share of possession but kept at bay by a sound All Blacks defence, the Wallabies finally responded in the 22nd minute when skipper Stirling Mortlock slotted over a penalty goal.
Moments later Australia playmaker Matt Giteau put the visitors ahead for the first time with an ugly but effective drop-goal, his first in a Test.
The Wallabies’ jubilation was short-lived, however, and Stephen Larkham’s inability to roll away from a tackle in the ensuing play allowed Carter to kick his second penalty to level the score.
But the visitors quickly responded through another Mortlock penalty.
With four minutes left in the opening half and trailing by three, Carter kept his side in the match with a penalty from the halfway line, before capitalising on a show of petulance from Adam Ashley-Cooper in the 38th minute, the Wallabies full-back penalised for kicking the ball into the stands in anger.
In the second half the All Blacks extended their lead with another Carter penalty from out wide but, true to form, Mortlock replied for the Wallabies four minutes later before Carter again restored the six-point buffer in the 51st minute.
Engineering two key changes early in the half in a bid to add something to the All Black attack, coach Henry’s move quickly paid dividends.
In the game’s first sustained attacking passage of play, Leonard latched onto an interception and charged to within metres of the line. The All Black forward pack was also on hand but they were unable to burrow over the line and the chance went begging.
But in the subsequent action it was Leonard again who darted for the line, and although he was cut short, prop Tony Woodcock made sure of the points as he grounded the ball to give the hosts a 23-12 lead – the try confirmed by the TV referee.
The Wallabies continued to press the All Blacks in the closing moments but, as was the case throughout the match, points proved too hard to come by and another Carter penalty late in the match put the result beyond doubt.