Australia defeat sees New Zealand near Tri Nations title

New Zealand 20 Australia 10

New Zealand 20 Australia 10

New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup with a ninth-straight win over Australia in Christchurch today, but missed out on the bonus point required to seal the Tri Nations title.

Tries from in-form full-back Mils Muliaina and centre Conrad Smith, plus seven points from the boot of fly-half Dan Carter, helped the All Blacks to a 17-10 half-time lead at AMI Stadium.

Kurtley Beale had produced a stunning solo effort for the Wallabies' try, but they failed to add to their total after the break as Carter's second penalty sealed New Zealand's win.

Graham Henry's side lacked the clinical edge they had shown in their opening three games, but a magnificent defensive effort ensured Australia rarely looked like breaking them down.

The visitors looked to control the tempo of the game in the early going by keeping the ball in the hand and limiting New Zealand's counter-attacking opportunities.

But a loose clearance led to them conceding the opening try.

Smith made a break in midfield and, from the next phase of play, Keven Mealamu's pass put Joe Rokocoko clear.

The winger then sent Muliaina skating down the left-hand touchline to cross in the corner, Carter adding the tough conversion.

But Australia hit back quickly. An optimistic attempted offload from Carter was seized upon by Wallaby flanker David Pocock, and two passes later Beale was racing 70 metres to touch down. Matt Giteau's conversion tied the scores.

Carter made amends for his error four minutes later when his deft pass found scrum-half Piri Weepu, whose wide pass saw Ma'a Nonu put centre partner Smith in at the corner. Carter once again added a testing touchline conversion to make it 14-7.

Giteau trimmed the gap with a 19th minute penalty, but a Carter effort shortly before the interval re-established the home side's seven-point lead.

The second half proved to be a much tighter affair with both sides using their forwards at close quarters to make ground, with opposing locks Brad Thorn and Nathan Sharpe featuring prominently in that facet of the game.

But Australia continued to struggle to break down the All Blacks defence and on the rare occasions when they did, following a brilliant jinking break by Drew Mitchell, their accuracy let them down as they moved the ball wide.

They were punished for their failure to take that chance when Carter's second penalty extended New Zealand's lead, with the All Blacks closing out the game with relative ease.

They will get the chance to wrap up the Tri Nations title when they meet South Africa at Soccer City in Johannesburg in two weeks' time.

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