All Black beauty

New Zealand 43 Australia 6
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The Independent Online
THE drifting blanket of winter rain was almost as relentless as the unending New Zealand pressure. Almost - but not quite.

In the end, both the weather and a stunning All-Black performance drowned Australia in Wellington yesterday in the opening match of the Southern Hemisphere's inaugural Tri- Nations Championship which doubled up as the annual Bledisloe Cup contest between the two sides. The result sets up the forthcoming repeat of last year's World Cup final with South Africa for Sean Fitzpatrick's impressive side, and on this evidence the Springboks face a mighty struggle. New Zealand are determined to banish the memory of that extra-time defeat at Ellis Park just over a year ago, and this six-try romp went a long way towards healing the wound.

It took the home team only three minutes to score their first try as they charged headlong into the wind and rain. That ferocious opening statement settled the issue almost before it had begun.

Frank Bunce, winning his 50th cap after recovering from a hamstring strain, barged down the right to release Jeff Wilson. The Otago wing was bundled into touch just a few metres short of the line, but Ian Jones caught the line-out ball and set up a forward drive which ended with Michael Jones plunging over to score.

Matt Burke curled over an eighth-minute penalty, but that was as close as Australia were going to get. In the 12th minute, Andrew Mehrtens instigated another break at pace and, as the ball travelled back across the face of the Australian line, Zinzan Brooke put Christian Cullen over in the corner for his eighth try in only four internationals.

Australia's resolve was further rocked five minutes later. Again Mehrtens set up the chance with a clever kick ahead; Jonah Lomu ripped the ball off Ben Tune and sent his scrum-half Justin Marshall in unopposed. Burke then landed another penalty but in the 32nd minute Marshall nipped round the back of a five-metre scrum to release Zinzan Brooke. Mehrtens kicked his first conversion and added a penalty for a 25-6 half-time lead.

Two more Mehrtens penalties early in the second half stretched the advantage and in the 59th minute Zinzan Brooke ran down the right to set up Wilson for try No 5. Eight minutes later another Mehrtens kick allowed Lomu to slide in and complete a remarkable performance.

With nine minutes remaining, Fitzpatrick left the field, for the first time in 76 Tests, with a shoulder injury.

New Zealand: C Cullen (Manawatu); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce, W Little (both North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); A Mehrtens, J Marshall (both Canterbury); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown (all Auckland); I Jones (North Harbour), R Brooke (Auckland); J Kronfeld (Otago), M Jones, Z Brooke (both Auckland). Replacement: N Hewitt (Southland) for Fitzpatrick, 71.

Australia: M Burke; D Campese (both NSW), J Roff (ACT), T Horan, B Tune (both Queensland); S Bowen, S Payne (both NSW); D Crowley, M Foley (both Queensland), R Harry (NSW), J Eales (capt), G Morgan (both Queensland), M Brial (NSW), D Wilson (Queensland), O Finegan (ACT).

Referee: E Morrison (England).