Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong
All Blacks edge out Wallabies
November 1, 2008
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw hoists the Bledisloe Cup following his side's triumph in Hong Kong
© Getty Images
New Zealand produced a strong second-half performance to overhaul Australia and write a new chapter in the 77-year history of the Bledisloe Cup.
For the first time since the trophy was introduced in 1931, the All Blacks tackled Australia on neutral soil and eventually came out on top. Australia, directed magnificently by Matt Giteau, had the best of the first half and moved ahead with two scores from winger Drew Mitchell.
Three penalties from Dan Carter kept New Zealand in touch before the All Blacks took charge after the interval and worked tries for winger Sitiveni Sivivatu and captain Richie McCaw. New Zealand had already retained the Bledisloe Cup but victory in Hong Kong sealed the four-match series 3-1.
The All Blacks had taken the surprise option of shifting Dan Carter to inside centre and awarding Stephen Donald his first Test start at fly-half. The experiment lasted just 50 minutes before All Blacks coach Graham Henry, with the scores level at 14-14, sent on Ma'a Nonu to inside centre and returned the conductors' baton to Carter.
Giteau had comfortably won the battle of the number 10s and his artistry helped the Wallabies claim a 14-9 half-time lead before New Zealand turned the screw. None of the Australia squad had played any rugby since the 28-24 defeat to New Zealand in Brisbane on September 13.
Although some of the New Zealand squad had been playing in the Air New Zealand Cup it was they who looked rusty early on as Australia set a high tempo. Mitchell wrong-footed Sivivatu and run the ball out of his own 22 after McCaw had lost possession in contact.
The All Blacks lost hooker Andrew Hore after just five minutes and fell behind shortly afterwards following a slice of brilliance from Giteau. Sivivatu spilled the ball in a tackle from Mitchell and Australia swarmed. Richard Brown and Stirling Mortlock carried the Wallabies forward before Giteau tried to dart past Brad Thorn.
He was scragged by the All Blacks lock but managed to flick a sublime blind pass out of the tackle for Mitchell, who was on his left shoulder to drive through two would-be tacklers and score under the posts. New Zealand worked their way back into the game with two penalties from Carter but they were some way short of their fluid best, with Giteau comfortably winning the fly-half battle.
Donald wasted a golden opportunity by chipping in behind the Australia defence when the All Blacks had set up a strong attacking platform inside the Wallabies 22. In contrast, Giteau was playing with guile and vision, running clever angles with the ball in hand and kicking intelligently to keep New Zealand pinned back.
When Ali Williams' ambitious one-handed pass went astray, Australia and Mitchell pounced again. The All Blacks had the chance to snuff out the attack when the ball squirmed out the side of a ruck, after Mitchell had cut inside. But Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore reacted first, the ball was driven to the line and quick hands from George Smith allowed Mitchell to score his second try in the corner.
Carter landed a penalty from half-way shortly before the interval and New Zealand then raced out of the blocks after the restart. Carter stepped in at first receiver, carried the ball to the line and then with deft handling the ball was transferred via Rodney So'oialo and Isaia Toeava to Sivivatu.
New Zealand had created space where they was none down the left wing and Sivivatu had a clear run to the line. Carter missed the conversion and the scores were level at 14-14. The All Blacks called time on the Donald experiment and sent on Nonu, while Australia took the opposite approach and replaced Ryan Cross with the more creative Berrick Barnes.
After a mazy run from Toeava, Nonu almost made an immediate impact as he stabbed a kick through the Wallabies defence. The ball ricocheted off the post but Australia just managed to recover. There were question marks over New Zealand's decision to start with Toeava at full-back and the All Blacks were fortunate to escape unscathed after his sloppy clearance was charged down by Mortlock.
But with the ball in hand New Zealand were building momentum.
Ali Williams wasted one opportunity by going himself and ignoring the overlap but New Zealand kept possession, swung it left and McCaw picked up a floated pass from Sivivatu to put New Zealand ahead just after the hour mark. Barnes had slotted in at fly-half and twice Giteau was able to spark Wallaby attacks from midfield but Australia could not capitalise.
Full-time score from the Bledisloe Cup match played between New Zealand and Australia at Hong Kong Stadium:
Australia (14) 14 (Drew Mitchell 2 tries; Matt Giteau 2 con)
New Zealand (9) 19 (Sitiveni Sivivatu, Richie McCaw tries; Daniel Carter 3 pen)
Australia: Ashley-Cooper, Hynes, Cross, Mortlock, Mitchell, Giteau, Burgess, Robinson, Moore, Baxter, Chisholm, Sharpe, Mumm, Smith, Brown.
Replacements: Dunning for Baxter (73), Pocock for Smith (75). Not Used: Freier, Waugh, Cordingley, Barnes, Turner.
New Zealand: Toeava, Gear, Smith, Carter, Sivivatu, Donald, Cowan, Woodcock, Hore, Tialata, Thorn, Williams, Kaino, McCaw, So'oialo.
Replacements: Jane for Toeava (75), Nonu for Donald (48), Weepu for Cowan (51), Somerville for Tialata (64), Boric for Thorn (64). Not Used: Mealamu, Thomson.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).