Rugby Union: All Blacks bow to Burke

Australia 28 New Zealand 7
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MATTHEW BURKE scored 23 points as Australia beat the World Cup favourites New Zealand 28-7 in front of a world-record crowd of more than 107,000 spectators at the Olympic stadium, in Sydney, yesterday.

The full-back kicked seven penalties and a conversion as the Wallabies retained the Bledisloe Cup and recorded their biggest winning margin over the All Blacks since the sides first met in 1903. The lock Mark Connors scored Australia's only try while New Zealand's fly-half Andrew Mehrtens supplied all their points with a try and conversion.

The All Blacks still claimed the Tri-Nations trophy following earlier wins over Australia and South Africa, but the New Zealand coach John Hart was understandably dismayed by his team's performance. "That was a huge wake-up call for us with the World Cup so close," he said. "The only good thing about that match for us is that it happened now and not in a month's time."

After two successive Tri-Nations defeats, Australia, whose new fly-half Rod Kafer had an inspirational debut, produced their best performance of the season against opponents who had not lost all year. "This win has really set us up nicely going into the World Cup," the Australian coach Rod Macqueen said. "I was very disappointed with our recent performances but we certainly lifted for this one. I would agree that this probably was a wake-up call for New Zealand but I don't think they need to panic. They're still favourites for the World Cup."

Burke put Australia 6-0 up with two penalties inside 16 minutes before the Kiwis went ahead with a spectacular solo try from Mehrtens. The fly- half, who contributed 29 points towards New Zealand's 34-15 win over Australia in Auckland last month, galloped in under the posts from 70 metres after bursting through the midfield. Burke then landed a 26th-minute penalty from near the halfway line and added two more in quick succession. The lead was stretched to 22-7 just before half-time when Connor was driven over after being fed by the No 8 Toutai Kefu.

Jonah Lomu came on for the second half but a sudden thunderstorm prevented him from making an impact. Both teams struggled to maintain possession in driving rain although Burke added another two penalties.

The previous world-record crowd for a rugby international was the 104,000 who packed into Murrayfield to see Scotland beat Wales 12-10 in 1975.

Australia: M Burke; B Tune, D Herbert, T Horan, J Little; R Kafer, G Gregan; A Blades, P Kearns, R Harry, M Connors, D Giffin, M Cockbain, D Wilson (capt), T Kefu. Replacements: P Noriega for Harry, 60; O Finegan for Giffin, 62; M Foley for Kearns, 66; T Strauss for Finegan, 68; N Grey for Horan, 73; C Whitaker for Gregan, 79; J Roff for Cockbain, 80.

New Zealand: J Wilson; C Cullen, A Ieremia, D Gibson, T Umaga; A Mehrtens, J Marshall; K Meeuws, A Oliver, C Hoeft, N Maxwell, R Brooke, D Mika, J Kronfeld, T Randell (capt). Replacements: J Lomu for Gibson, h/t; A Blowers for Mika, h/t; R Willis for Brooke, 62; T Brown for Mehrtens, 64; C Dowd for N Maxwell, 66.

Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).