New Zealand reaffirmed their position as the masters of southern-hemisphere rugby by coming from behind with three converted second-half tries that sealed the fate of the Australians at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.
The All Blacks' coach, Graham Henry, silenced his critics by steering his team to a fourth successive Tri-Nations title and out-manoeuvring the Wallabies' Kiwi coach, Robbie Deans. Henry made four substitutions in four minutes shortly after half-time; Deans hesitated and the new players turned the game. When Deans did send on fresh troops, with 10 minutes left, New Zealand had turned a 17-7 deficit into a 28-17 lead.
Australia, 7-3 behind until the final minute of the first half, had raised the bar when their full-back, Adam Ashley-Cooper, scored right on half-time and the lock James Horwill crashed over for a try five minutes after the re-start. Matt Giteau's conversions made it 17-7 and New Zealand seemed in trouble.
But Henry called for his reinforcements and the tide turned. As New Zealand upped the pace, the prop Tony Woodcock was left free on the left touchline to finish off a flowing move. The substitute scrum-half, Piri Weepu, then slipped down the blind-side to take a scoring pass from Sitiveni Sivivatu, and finally Dan Carter stepped through a broken defence to score. Carter's conversions meant the All Blacks had completed one of the great escapes.
For the first 50 minutes, defences had dominated. Australia had three or four chances, but were thwarted. When New Zealand responded, the Wallabies held firm.
Australia, however, made one big mistake and were punished. Their defensive alignment was lop-sided as New Zealand got numbers going right from a ruck and the centre Ma'a Nonu put his full-back, Mils Muliaina, over wide out, Carter converting.
Matt Giteau responded with a 23rd-minute penalty and then, in first-half injury time, planted a kick into the arms of the wing Peter Hynes. He flipped the ball inside and Ashley-Cooper slipped past Conrad Smith and Muliaina to score. Giteau made it 10-7 at the break.
When Horwill crashed over, New Zealand were facing their greatest test since the World Cup. They passed it, swamping the Australians at the breakdown. By the time Ryan Cross scored at the New Zealand posts with two minutes left, it was too late for Australia to find away back.
Australia: Tries: Ashley-Cooper, Horwill, Cross; Conversions: Giteau 3; Penalty: Giteau. New Zealand: Tries: Muliaina, Woodcock, Weepu, Carter; Conversions: Carter 4.
Australia: A Ashley-Cooper; P Hynes, R Cross, S Mortlock (capt), L Tuqiri; M Giteau, S Cordingley; B Robinson, S Moore (A Freier, 71), A Baxter, J Horwill, N Sharpe, R Elsom (H McMeniman, 70), G Smith, W Palu (R Brown, 33).
New Zealand: M Muliaina; R Kahui, C Smith, M Nonu (S Donald, 51), S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan (P Weepu, 55); A Woodcock, A Hore (K Mealamu, 51), G Somerville (J Afoa, 51), B Thorn (A Boric, 78), A Williams, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo.
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content