Australia 25-20 New Zealand, Brisbane, August 27
Wallabies clinch Tri-Nations crown
August 27, 2011
Australia celebrate clinching the Tri-Nations title for the first time in 10 years
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Australia claimed the Tri-Nations title with an epic 25-20 victory over New Zealand in their showdown at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Tries from scrum-half Will Genia, No.8 Radike Samo and fullback Kurtley Beale gave the Wallabies the edge in an enthralling contest and propelled them to the southern hemisphere crown for the first time in 10 years. The All Blacks battled back from a 20-3 half-time deficit with tries of their own from centres Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu but could not overhaul their Trans-Tasman rivals who claimed a deserved victory that was built on a superb defensive display and a superior intensity.
A wet and slippery surface did little to hinder the Wallabies' early adventure and a charge down enabled them to pile on the pressure inside the All Blacks' 22. A pass from Genia sailed over Ioane's head as they closed in on the corner but play came back for a penalty against All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read and Cooper opened the scores with a well-struck kick.
The Wallabies' lively opening continued to bring reward with Cooper ghosting through the All Blacks' defence on the 22 but he was unable to get the ball to an unmarked Ioane. The home side's lineout failed to find the same kind of fluidity but the scrum did provide the next attacking option. Cooper was again involved and he found winger Adam Ashley -Cooper who was denied a score by the combined efforts of scrum-half Piri Weepu and fullback Mils Muliaina.
Read's night was over soon after due to injury and Victor Vito joined the pack in time for the Wallabies' 5m scrum. The home side hammered away at the line but Ashley-Cooper and Genia were both wrapped up in the shadow of the posts before the Wallabies' No.9 darted over between prop Owen Franks and hooker Keven Mealamu. Cooper added the extras to cement his side's lead and the All Blacks' frustration bubbled over following the re-start.
A big run from Samo set off more alarm bells for New Zealand before the visitors finally found some rhythm with ball in hand. A try looked a near certainty with a huge overlap for the taking but a huge tackle from Anthony Faingaa engulfed Muliaina and dislodged the ball which was eventually cleared by Cooper. The All Blacks shrugged off the setback and were soon pressing again inside the 22 and their endeavour was rewarded with Carter's first points of the game.
The ferocity of the Wallabies' defence continued to disrupt their title rivals and there was no let-up in their work rate in attack either although working an opening in a regimented All Blacks line was no easy task. But a penalty against Nonu for tackling flanker David Pocock without the ball allowed Cooper to take his side back out to a 10-point lead just past the half hour.
And they were soon celebrating again thanks to a superb score from Samo. Pocock did the initial damage by ripping the ball out of the grasp of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw before it was worked to Samo in midfield. The veteran then brushed off the challenge from flanker Adam Thomson before shredding the cover defence with an outstanding turn of pace that was enough to carry him over the line for his first Test try. Cooper added the extras to put the Wallabies firmly in control of the contest.
The All Blacks raised their game following the re-start and were made to work for small gains before the Wallabies' Rocky Elsom was penalised for coming in from the side. Carter doubled his tally from the kicking tee and a simple but effective approach soon saw them back inside Wallabies territory.
The visitors kept it tight and rumbled into the 22 on the back of an epic series of phases before Carter darted itowards the line, drew two defenders and then popped a scoring pass to Smith who coasted in for a try. Carter added the extras to bring his side back to within a converted score and they were soon on the hunt for more.
McCaw led the next raid into the Wallabies' 22 before an accidental offside brought an abrupt end to the move but a huge scrum from the All Blacks revealed more cracks in their rivals and gave them the next feed in the shadow of the posts. The pick and drive continued to sap the Wallabies' defence and Nonu combined well with Smith to work an opening before showing some great feet to skip in for the try. Carter's conversion levelled things up and capped a 17-point haul in just 19 second half minutes.
But back came the Wallabies - and in style. Genia carved the crucial opening with a show and go off the base of the ruck before feeding Ioane who joined the attack at pace. He appeared to have the speed to carry him home but opted to shift the ball to Beale who claimed the simple score but Cooper pulled the conversion wide of the posts. The Wallabies' playmaker then saw another effort slip wide of the posts as the game entered the final ten minutes after All Blacks replacement Isaia Toeava was punished for obstructing an on-rushing Ashley-Cooper.
The Wallabies emptied the bench in an effort to sure up their defence as the game entered the closing stages and when they snuffed out the All Blacks' last roll of the dice the victory and the title was theirs.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.