All Blacks and Wallabies evenly matched - Connolly

Wallabies coach John Connolly refuses to accept the All Blacks will have a psychological edge in France despite a New Zealand victory in the Tri-Nations.

Wallabies coach John Connolly refuses to accept the All Blacks will have a psychological edge in France despite a New Zealand victory in the Tri-Nations.

Speaking shortly after the All Blacks retained both the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations trophy in torrential conditions at Eden Park, Connolly insisted there was still little to choose between the two sides.

“I probably think at times there is not much between the two teams. Most games swing on close decisions. We saw that in Melbourne and we saw that here,” he said.

“I don’t think [the All Blacks have the edge] at all. I think it is one game each this year and I think players from both sides realise that it was a close game.

“I don’t think it has a great bearing at all.”

A crucial moment in the match came when Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock was penalised for a high tackle midway through the second half – a decision which eventually opened the door for the All Blacks to score the match’s solitary try.

And after time to reflect on the indiscretion, Mortlock admitted the mistake had proved costly in the overall scheme of things.

“I think in big games, little things can have massive repercussions and I was a little bit disappointed that that one did seem to turn the game,” he admitted.

“The decision was made at the time and they seemed to get a leg up from that.

“I think currently you have got to play what is in front of you and play how the referee interprets the rules on the night and I think the All Blacks did that a lot better than us tonight.

“When you play a team as good as the All Blacks you can’t afford to let them get a leg up.”

Victorious coach Graham Henry, having retained the two trophies for another year, admitted the side was aware of how much it meant to the country to put on a good performance.

“Obviously we are pretty happy to win the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations trophy again,” he said.

“It’s very important to the team and very important to the country and I think the Bledisloe Cup is probably the trophy that people value the most.

“I think it’s great the guys got better as the game went on. They got better tactically and finished strongly so it’s a pleasing result.

“It took us a while to play to the conditions well but we got better, as I said, as the game went on.”

When asked whether it was pleasing to win a tight Test match after the All Blacks’ dominance in recent years, Henry added that he had never expected an easy win.

“There are no romps in the Tri-Nations. It’s the hardest international tournament in the world, in my belief, and tonight was no different,” he added.

“It was good to come through and win it again. That’s very pleasing.”

All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith also singled out fly-half Dan Carter for his performance on a rain-soaked evening.

“He’s a tough character. You have to remember that,” he said when asked if he was worried about the playmaker putting his body on the line in numerous rucks.

“He’s tough, he can handle it. Sometimes you have got to get your hands dirty and get in there.

“I just think his game is getting better and better.”

Smith also believes reserve half-back Brendon Leonard has a big future in the game after he came on early in the second half and gave a confident performance.

“I think we showed a lot of trust in him tonight. Byron had a bit of a bruise on the calf and we needed Brendon to come on and really step up,” said Smith.

“I think the fact we got him on so early shows the trust we have got. He’s an exceptional young rugby player.

“It was another really good night for him in really tough Test match.”

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