All Blacks defence sets up win
Thunderous All Blacks defence en route to a 30-14 win snuffed out any threat Australia posed in a pulsating Bledisloe Cup defence in the Investec Tri Nations Test at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
From the outset the New Zealanders appeared determined to take a leaf out of the Samoan book that had proved so hard for the Wallabies to read when beaten by the Pacific Island nation last month.
Two tries were conceded in an All Blacks performance which was yet another step up in intensity from the home team.
Played in perfect conditions, in front of a crowd of 54,500 New Zealand showed a clarity of execution on attack that the Australians were not able to emulate.
They kept the home team to only 13 points, to outscore them in the second half but the damage had already been done.
The constant support play of the New Zealanders in the first half made them potent in the Australian half while the visitors ran the ball often, but without the conviction achieved by the home team and the 17-0 halftime lead proved a bridge too far for the visitors.
Typical of this was a burst by centre Conrad Smith set up the chance for halfback Piri Weepu to race down the touchline to link with wing Hosea Gear. The ruck formed and the ball was moved back to the right where right wing Sitiveni Sivivatu made ground to get close to the line. Flanker Jerome Kaino kept the ball alive and it was second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu who picked up the ball to drive through the legs to score in the seventh minute.
After Australia enjoyed a period on attack midway through the half a failed kick for Ioane to the in-goal area allowed the All Blacks to clear and in the 26th minute, a scrum move which saw Weepu run, seemingly on his own to the blindside, saw him backhand a pass to Sivivatu on the inside and he almost broke through.
The ball was cleared and moved to mid-field where No.8 Kieran Read and McCaw worked the ball toward the line before hooker Keven Mealamu got low and had the strength to put the ball on the line for the try.
Seven minutes into the second half Carter won a rare roar of approval from a New Zealand crowd when landing a dropped goal to take the All Blacks out to a 20-0 lead.
New Zealand's disappointing lineout play off their own throws in the second half were matched by penalties conceded by Australia flanker David Pocock in ruck situations.
But in the 51st minute the ball was robbed from Thorn after a succession of All Blacks drives and halfback Will Genia burst down the blindside to in pass to a flying fullback Kurtley Beale and he fed wing Digby Ioane who beat fullback Mils Muliaina's tackle attempt with Quade Cooper, finally entrusted with the kicking, adding the conversion.
However, from the restart Australia failed to control the ball and centre Smith was in in a flash to hare down the sideline and feed inside to Sivivatu who scored. Carter's conversion took New Zealand out to a 27-7 lead. He added a penalty goal before captain Rocky Elsom claimed a late consolation try.
If there was a single point of difference between the teams it was in the defence. The All Blacks provided no opportunity for Ioane to run his inside channel, generally running into McCaw every time he tried.
Brad Thorn, in cover defence put in some thunderous tackles and seemed to take personal affront at anyone trying to outflank him. But it was right through the pack that the tackles were unleashed.
Cooper also worked his variations, an early kick to the corner negated by the All Blacks' winning the lineout and halfway through the first half a kick to Ioane's wing in goal was a fraction too deep. But his chances were minimal.
Genia was an ever-present threat but was rarely given room to move and on the first opportunity to run the ball in the second half a set-piece play from a scrum came undone when obstruction was ruled in mid-field.
Wing James O'Connor had a horror night with the boot missing three handy chances in the first 42 minutes, points that could have yielded some reward for the side.