All Blacks too strong for Wallabies
Peerless execution from New Zealand led to a 41-33 victory over Australia at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Despite a great improvement from the Wallabies, their performance was no match for the ruthlessness of New Zealand - epitomised by their second try for Sam Cane as Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea and Israel Dagg flawlessly combined.
Restarts plagued the Wallabies constantly as New Zealand continued to win the ball back and then add subsequent points; increasing the gap on the scoreboard.
The emotion on debutant Peter Betham's face during the anthems proved that this was no dead-rubber Test, with Wallaby pride on the line after two defeats already to their Tasman rivals earlier this year. They scored three tries through Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani as the salvage mission being undertaken by Ewen McKenzie continues.
Generally written off against New Zealand, who haven't lost this year, Australia started hungrily with an amount of territory and possession inside All Blacks territory. Their effort level didn't fade, but they couldn't keep pace with the world champions for long enough to take the lead - despite getting close at 33-26.
Israel Folau underlined his status as the Wallabies' biggest threat with a half-break through the defensive line, putting Australia on the go-forward as they showed their intent.
A scrappily-assembled scrum forced Kieran Read to hold on and Quade Cooper converted the resulting penalty for a 3-0 lead to the visitors.
Cruden's long-range response missed and by some distance, but the ensuing possession resulted in New Zealand's first try by Savea, as Israel Dagg found the space to release the giant winger down the left touchline to score in the corner.
The aggression and commitment of the Wallaby forwards though to provide Will Genia with a strong platform benefited Australia hugely and created the opportunity for Cooper's drop goal on 16 minutes.
Cruden's response had New Zealand 10-6 ahead at the close of the first quarter, but the All Blacks formula was still working well - powerful turnover, kick ahead from Ma'a Nonu and then forcing a rushed kick from Adam Ashley-Cooper to set up position in the Wallabies 22 and win the penalty for Cruden to convert. Simple enough on paper, but it has become the All Blacks mantra.
Lazy running from Tony Woodcock produced a penalty for Cooper to successfully add another three points, the Wallabies staying within range.
Desperate defence from Ben McCalman on his opposite man Read denied the All Blacks a second try coming up to half an hour in, but they wouldn't have to wait long.
Cruden's perfectly weighted cross-field kick landed in Savea's basket, passing onto Dagg who beat Folau and Betham to find Sam Cane in space for a run-in and his sixth try in 13 Tests.
It was truly vintage stuff from the world champions, who were magnificent on the day.
Australia didn't deserve to be 11 points off the pace and they chipped that down to eight with another Cooper penalty as the tempo of the match entered a crucial phase before half-time.
The second try for New Zealand had been a gem, and their third matched it. The key was Liam Messam's inside line after Dagg, again, fixed the defence - so that the Messam could cut in and offload to Cruden to go over.
At 30-12 the Wallabies needed something to cling on to. They got it through Adam Ashley-Cooper, surprising space on the outside left uncovered by the Kiwi defence for him to cross over as Cooper added a super conversion.
Australia had not even performed badly. New Zealand were just phenomenal.
Nonu's subtle touch with the boot after the break had the All Blacks holding Australia by the throat once more - a five-metre scrum looming. Cruden's pass was poor but a penalty came New Zealand's way and the fly-half converted for a 33-19 lead.
Australia cut into it handsomely through Kuridrani's interception, breaking upfield after poaching Savea's pass and offloading to Toomua for the try.
Cruden's bizarre close-range miss kept the gap at seven, but the fourth try wasn't far behind from Read.
James Slipper was wrapped up in a double tackle and lost possession, but from there New Zealand's one-on-one passing, drawing in the opposite man, worked perfectly to create a comfortable overlap on the left for Read to cruise over.
Kuridrani's beautiful step inside Ben Smith had the Wallabies supporters in the crowd in full voice, the resulting maul winning a penalty for Australia to kick into the corner.
Craig Joubert's refereeing drew the ire of both sets of fans as Australia's promising maul was judged to have stopped five metres out. It cut off a priceless chance for the Wallabies to get within range.
The efforts of Kuridrani were rewarded with a try four minutes from the finish with Cooper adding another conversion.
It was just reward for Australia, who hadn't played poorly, but as with every other team couldn't live with a New Zealand team playing at their peak.
Man of the Match: Two assists for Israel Dagg capped a fine performance from the New Zealand full-back.
Moment of the Match: Australia at 30-12 could have been cut off but Adam Ashley-Cooper's try just before the break kept them in the hunt.
Villain of the Match: Nothing nasty to report.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Savea, Cane, Cruden, Read
Cons: Cruden 3
Pens: Cruden 4, Barrett
Try: Ashley-Cooper, Toomua, Kuridrani
Cons: Cooper 3
Pens: Cooper 3
Drop Goal: Cooper
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Tom Taylor.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (capt), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Nic White, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Bernard Foley.
Date: Saturday, October 19
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)