The All Blacks sent a chilling message to world rugby's leading nations from here yesterday. At the start of the 2006 Tri-Nations, it told of the New Zealanders' enhanced standards, their power, physicality and desire. With the World Cup now less than 15 months away, it was an intimidating performance.
The Wallabies were outmuscled and outmanoeuvred in a four-tries-to-two defeat. They started well and led early on, but the sin-binning of the No 8 Rocky Elsom turned their 7-0 lead into a 14-7 deficit. From there, New Zealand were always superior.
There was a conviction and zeal about the All Blacks. Australia did their best but rarely broke a well-organised and physical defence in which Jerry Collins excelled. By contrast, Australia missed 20 tackles.
But New Zealand did much more than just play a muscular game. Their support was exemplary and they were more incisive. Their willingness to attack from their own 22 was commendable. Australia's first try, after only seven minutes, was equally adventurous, Chris Latham attacking from his 22. He chipped the onrushing defence, regathered and sent Mat Rogers away. He was hunted down by Daniel Carter, but his inside pass was collected by Lote Tuqiri.
By half-time, Elsom's temporary dismissal for a third deliberate offence had turned the game. Keven Mealamu scored twice in five minutes, the first from a wayward Australian line-out throw and the second from a clever pass by the outstanding Richie McCaw.
The pressure the Wallabies were subjected to led to turnovers from which the All Blacks profited. They won faster ball at the breakdown because of their greater physical power and drive. Their third try, after 49 minutes, was superb. Running from deep, Aaron Mauger stepped cleverly before kicking to the Australian line. Stephen Larkham covered back but lost possession and McCaw got his hands on the ball for the try.
The substitute Scott Fava did get a try back for Australia, from a drive following a line-out. But two Carter penalties put the All Blacks out to 27-12 and the contest was over. Finally, Larkham's intended cross-kick was charged down by Carter, who sent Isaia Toeava on a 65-metre run for his side's bonus-point try.
New Zealand: L MacDonald (I Toeava, 70); R Gear, M Muliaina, A Mauger, J Rokocoko; D Carter, B Kelleher (P Weepu, 64); T Woodcock (G Somerville, 53), K Mealamu (A Hore, 73), C Hayman, C Jack, J Eaton (A Williams, 60), J Collins, R So'oialo (C Masoe, 73); R McCaw (capt).
Australia: C Latham; M Gerrard, S Mortlock, M Rogers (M Giteau, 66), L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan (capt; S Cordingley, 70); G Holmes, T McIsaac (J Paul, 37), G Sheperdson (A Baxter, 64), N Sharpe, D Vickerman, M Chisholm (S Fava, 50), R Elsom (P Waugh, 70), G Smith.
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content