All Blacks' gamble on Donald pays off

New Zealand 22 Australia 16
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The Independent Online

Fly-half Stephen Donald helped settle some questions about the "Carter factor" with a composed performance in New Zealand's 22-16 Tri-Nations victory over Australia here on Saturday.

In just his second season of Test rugby Donald has been thrust into the No 10 shirt because of Daniel Carter's ruptured Achilles' and some All Blacks fans were concerned whether the 25-year-old could fill Carter's huge boots. On this showing, they need not have worried. Donald slotted five penalties and converted Richie McCaw's try to ensure his team recorded their 20th successive victory here. He also produced a better tactical kicking game and even when two of his high kicks went straight up in the air was able to regather both and ensured possession was not lost.

Donald also made two telling line breaks and was part of a solid defensive effort by the All Blacks after a shaky opening 20 minutes when the Wallabies raced to a 13-3 lead and should have had another try.

Donald said: "I guess it's miles on the clock at international level now. I guess every week I've just tried to build. I learnt a fair bit out there. I'm fairly happy."

The Waikato Chiefs player, who helped his side into the Super 14 final this year, said he had been nervous. "If you're not getting nervous before one of these games you must be dead," he added.

"She's big time footy and you're always going to get nervous. I've tried to stay as relaxed as I can and not get caught up in it all. You can get overawed by all this so I went for a walk [and] hung out downtown and watched the world go by. As I was leaving [a coffee shop] I got a five-minute sort of pep talk from Joe Public. He was very supportive and said 'play your natural game'. New Zealand's a great place for that."

New Zealand: Try McCaw. Conversion Donald. Penalties Donald 5. Australia Try Barnes. Conversion Giteau. Penalties Giteau 3.

New Zealand: M Muliaina, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, S Sivivatu, S Donald, J Cowan, T Woodcock, A Hore, N Tialata, B Thorn, I Ross, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo. Replacements: K Mealamu, O Franks, J Eaton, K Read, P Weepu, L McAlister, J Rokocoko.

Australia: A Ashley-Cooper, L Turner, S Mortlock (capt), B Barnes, D Mitchell, M Giteau, L Burgess, W Palu, G Smith, R Brown, N Sharpe, J Horwill, A Baxter, S Moore, B Robinson. Replacements: T Polota-Nau, B Alexander, D Mumm, P Waugh, D Pocock, W Genia, J O'Connor.

Referee: C Joubert (SA).

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