All Blacks bounce back in style
August 2, 2008
All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock burrows over to score
© Getty Images
A last-gasp Ma'a Nonu try saw New Zealand secure the bonus point that sent them to the top of the Tri-Nations table. Nonu scored twice, as did Tony Woodcock, as Australia were comprehensively beaten in Auckland.
Wallabies rugby coach Robbie Deans faces his first inquisition and Graham Henry gladly vacated the coaching hot seat as his All Blacks side kept their Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup defences alive with a 39-10 victory at Eden Park here tonight.
The much maligned All Blacks orchestrated a dramatic turnaround after last weekend's 19-34 loss in Sydney to clinically dismantle the Australians and end a two-match losing streak. A compelling four tries-to-one bonus-point triumph handed Deans his first defeat in his six-test reign and continued the Wallabies' miserable record on the road in the Tri-Nations.
Their losing streak now extends to 15 matches away from the security of home since 2001. The All Blacks, who never threatened to drop three successive tests for the first time in a decade, also underlined Eden Park's reputation as their fortress. France, in 1994, remain the last opponents in 20 tests to leave as victors.
The All Blacks returned to the top of the Tri-Nations leaderboard with 10 points from four games, while Australia have nine from three and South Africa are on six, also with a game in hand. The Bledisloe Cup series resumes in Brisbane on September 13; the All Blacks next assignment is in Cape Town against the Springboks on August 17 (NZT).
Pessimism clouding the buildup to Henry's sternest test at home cleared shortly after kickoff as the All Blacks swiftly proved they had learned from their ponderous and one-dimensional play seven days ago. A greater tactical appreciation was evident in the opening minutes as an array of kickers, led by Daniel Carter, kicked the ball deep to pin the Wallabies in their territory.
Captain Richie McCaw's return from a six-week injury layoff aided the All Blacks, with the inspirational flanker showing no effects from his fragile ankle. McCaw was typically robust, no more so than when he clattered halfback Luke Burgess early in the second half, a jarring hit that set the platform for Ma'a Nonu's game-sealing try in just the 43rd minute.
Nonu, who handled twice in the movement, pushed the All Blacks halftime advantage of 21-10. McCaw was in sublime form and also inadvertently hampered the Wallabies effectiveness at the breakdown when Phil Waugh was left wobbling after his chin connected with the All Blacks captain's elbow in the 11th minute.
Although Waugh persevered, his input was limited while Australia's other flanker George Smith was on the losing side of a running battle with South African referee Mark Lawrence. An early indiscretion from the Wallabies openside enabled Carter to give the All Blacks a 6-3 lead after Carter and counterpart Matt Giteau traded early penalties.
While Carter ended the match with a 19-point haul, it was his tactical kicking that set up the All Blacks for a confidence-soothing victory. He frequently pinned the Australians down while fullback Mils Muliaina and wing Richard Kahui also put in deft kicks to deny the Wallabies field position.
A Carter probe to the corner set the stage for the All Blacks' opening try, although Australia's lineout was also complicit when hooker Stephen Moore failed to deliver the ball the required 5m. Gifted a prime attacking opportunity with a free kick, New Zealand's composure was illustrated when rather than tapping and running, McCaw called for a scrum.
The All Blacks duly crabbed up and across field from the possession through before Rodney So'oialo fed Woodcock for the loosehead prop to crash over from close range. Woodcock was the beneficiary again just three minutes later when a deep kick from Jimmy Cowan forced the Australians to surrender a lineout feed 5m out.
The Wallabies were caught napping when a set move worked a treat, as Ali Williams transferred the ball to Woodcock, who steamed through a fragmented defensive screen to score his second try. Australia hardly ventured into New Zealand half but when Giteau engineered a rare foray a slick backline move gave the visitors their only five-point reward.
Berrick Barnes put Stirling Mortlock outside Conrad Smith, the Australian skipper effortlessly drew Muliaina to allow Adam Ashley-Cooper to round behind the goalposts. Giteau added the extras but that was effectively it for the Wallabies. Carter had the final say in the first half with a penalty and when Nonu scored so soon after the resumption the die was cast.
To compound the Wallabies woes it was Nonu again who surged down the sideline to add the bonus point try after the hooter, television match official Shaun Veldsman confirming the score even though the grounding appeared questionable.