In the end, this crucial Tri-Nations match came down to a familiar name. Dan Carter was handed a 79th-minute penalty when the pressurised Australians failed to release the ball near their own line. From wide out, and 28 metres away from the posts, Carter calmly slotted the kick, his fourth of the match, and his comeback after a nine-month, injury-enforced absence from Test rugby had ended in triumph.
Three minutes earlier, the New Zealand forwards had smashed into the Australian 22 before offering Carter a relatively easy drop-goal attempt. He fluffed it. Credit then, his nerve in slotting the penalty which kept the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand for another year and piled pressure on the Wallabies' Kiwi coach, Robbie Deans.
For long periods of a brutal Test, in which fear of defeat undermined both sides' attempts to play an expansive game, Australia looked likelier winners. Their outstanding defence seemed likely to thwart every New Zealand attack. But the Wallabies could not quite finish their own opportunities and they thus had to rely on six penalties from the fly-half Matt Giteau.
The All Black substitute Ma'a Nonu scored the only try of the game, supporting Sitiveni Sivivatu's run off the ball to cross the Wallaby line out wide after 65 minutes. Carter's conversion put New Zealand 16-15 up but Australia went down the other end and the All Blacks infringed at a ruck. Giteau landed his final penalty to put the Wallabies ahead by 18-16. Carter's nerveless late strike turned it round.
At times in the first half the All Blacks played like strangers, but after half-time they took charge. Jimmy Cowan and Carter had tries disallowed before the growing pressure proved decisive.
"Our guys showed a huge amount of intestinal fortitude," said the All Blacks' coach, Graham Henry. "It just shows the guys have got the guts to hang in and keep going."
"We had a great opportunity but we came up short," said Deans. "They are masters at getting home and we're working at acquiring that art."
Australia: J O'Connor (P Hynes, 46); L Turner, A Ashley-Cooper, B Barnes (R Cross, 40), D Mitchell; M Giteau, L Burgess (W Genia, 76); B Robinson (B Alexander, 22-24), S Moore (T Polota-Nau, 22-32; 51-54; 65), A Baxter (B Alexander, 32), J Horwill, N Sharpe (D Mumm, 67), G Smith (capt), R Brown (D Pocock, 60), R Elsom.
New Zealand: M Muliaina; J Rokocoko, C Smith (M Nonu, 40), L McAlister (Nonu, 3-11; S Donald, 50), S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan; A Woodcock, A Hore, O Franks (J Afoa, 66), B Thorn, I Ross, J Kaino (R So'oialo 65), K Read, R McCaw (capt).
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content