New Zealand power past Australia
New Zealand secured the Bledisloe Cup for the 11th straight year after beating Australia 27-16 in Wellington on Saturday.
The Wallabies were more competitive than last weekend's encounter in Sydney but the All Blacks made better use of their opportunities which sealed their victory.Australia started the match brightly and after setting up 14 phases, close to New Zealand's try-line, Christian Lealiifano got the game's first points, from the kicking tee, after Owen Franks was pinned for not rolling away at a ruck.
That penalty seemed to be the cue for the home side to come alive and for the next five minutes they had the Wallabies under the cosh but, crucially, failed to add any points.
First a sniping break from Ben Smith, inside the Wallabies' half, put Julian Savea into space but a text-book tackle from Israel Folau forced the big number 11 into touch at the corner flag.
Two minutes later it was Israel Dagg who tore Australia's defence to shreds. He ghosted past three defenders but a wayward pass failed to find a team-mate and although Matt Toomua was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck, Tom Taylor missed with the shot at goal.
The Wallabies upped the ante during the next 15 minutes but failed to cross the whitewash. Their only points came via a penalty from Lealiifano in the 27th minute. This after the inside centre ran onto a pass from Stephen Moore, midway between the halfway line and the All Blacks' 22, before being stopped five metres short of the try-line by Aaron Smith, who was penalised for not releasing Lealiifano on the ground.
The All Blacks struck back from the kick-off when Sydney hat-trick hero Ben Smith scored his fourth try in two weeks This after good hand speed from Conrad Smith and Steven Luatua put him in the clear down the right-hand touchline. Smith still had work to do and his pace proved too much for the cover defence who failed to lay a finger on him as he touched down.
Taylor added the extras to give the All Blacks a 7-6 lead but Australia were still competitive. The visitors thought they had an opportunity to regain the lead in 32nd minute, when Andrew Hore, was pinned for not releasing a tackled player on the ground. The hooker's infringement was within Lealiifano's goal-kicking range but referee Jaco Peyper reversed his decision after Ben Mowen held Brodie Retallick back - off the ball - in the build-up.
Five minutes later, Taylor gave the All Blacks a 10-6 lead, after another Wallaby infringement at a ruck and the fly-half had an opportunity to add another three-pointer shortly afterwards - after Moore played the ball after not retreating from a Genia up-and-under - but although his effort from the halfway mark had the distance, it was just wide of the mark.
On the stroke of half-time, Luatua broke clear, deep inside the Wallabies' 22, and when he was stopped just short of the try-line, the ball was spun wide and Dagg did well to draw in the defence before offloading to rightwing Smith, who got in for his second try in the corner.
New Zealand took an 15-6 lead into the break and although the Wallabies were still competitive they couldn't match the intensity of the world champions.
Like in the first half, Australia were once again quicker out of the starting blocks after the restart. James O'Connor launched an attack which had the All Blacks at sixes and sevens, inside their 22, but opted to break infield when he could have offloaded to Genia on his outside.
Taylor extended his side's lead, from the kicking tee, after the Wallabies wer pinned for a scrum infringement, but Lealiifano cancelled it out with a penalty of his own after the several All Blacks strayed offside at a ruck.
New Zealand added two further penalties through Taylor in the 61st and 70th minutes after the Wallabies were punished for infringements at a scrum and ruck respectively but the Wallabies were given a lifeline when Israel Folau scored their only try thanks to a superb piece of individualism.
The speedster intercepted a wayward pass from Nonu on his 22-metre line and raced away before beating Israel Dagg with an outrageous side-step before scoring next to the posts.
Lealiifano converted but it was too little too late and Dagg sealed the win with his first-ever Test penalty from in front of the posts five minutes before full-time.
Man of the Match: There were several candidates in the All Black pack, who were dominant in the second half. A special mention gos to Tony Woodcock, who was dominant in the scrums and Steven Luatua for a superb showing on defence and attack. But our vote goes to Aaaron Smith who got New Zealand's back-line firing with his nippy service, and superb decision-making. Also won his personal duel with Will Genia which is no mean feat.
Moment of the Match: With the score at 10-6, the Wallabies were still in with a shout but Ben Smith's second try put the visitors further on the back-foot and knocked the wind out of their sails.
Villain of the Match: Nothing to report here as both sides went at each other in a hard but fair manner.
For New Zealand:
Tries: B Smith 2
Pens: Taylor 4, Dagg
Pen: Lealiifano 3
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charles Piutau.
Australia: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Referee: Jaco Peyper