New Zealand beat Australia 30-14 in its final home match before hosting the Rugby World Cup to move atop the Tri-Nations standings and retain the Bledisloe Cup.
Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Sitiveni Sivivatu scored tries and Dan Carter kicked 15 points for the top-ranked All Blacks last night at Auckland’s Eden Park, the venue for the World Cup final on Oct. 23. Australia’s points came from converted tries by Digby Ioane and Rocky Elsom.
“It’s a big year with what’s coming,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said at the presentation ceremony. “We wanted to make sure we put a performance together for the last time in New Zealand until the big thing starts.”
The win lifted the All Blacks to nine points from two games in the annual southern hemisphere championship as they seek an 11th Tri-Nations title in 16 editions. They also took an unbeatable 1-0 lead in the two-match Bledisloe Cup series against Australia, which last held the trophy in 2002.
New Zealand and Australia had opened the tournament by beating a second-string South Africa team. The three rivals are using the matches to fine-tune combinations before the World Cup starts Sept. 9.
“There was some good learning in there for us should we get to play here again later this year,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said in a televised interview after Australia fell to its 12th straight loss at Eden Park.
South Africa will host the next two games, with Australia facing New Zealand in the final match on Aug. 27 in Brisbane.
The All Blacks led 17-0 at the break last night even after having 40 percent of the possession and being hemmed in their own half for more than two-thirds of the opening 40 minutes. The home team’s defense set the platform for the victory, New Zealand coach Graham Henry said.
“We dominated the game physically,” Henry told Fox Sports. “Our defense was very good. We took our chances.”
Fly-half Carter kicked a penalty for the first points and then converted Nonu’s try from five meters inside the right-hand touchline to make it 10-0 in the 10th minute.
Hooker Mealamu stretched out from close range to touch down near the posts in the 27th minute and Carter’s second conversion made it 17-0. James O’Connor then missed two penalties for the Wallabies before the break.
O’Connor pushed his third penalty attempt wide of the goalposts at the start of the second half before Carter made it 20-0 with a 48th-minute drop goal.
Try From Restart
Winger Ioane then put the visitors on the scoreboard with a try by finishing off a break down the short side. Fly-half Quade Cooper added the conversion, though the All Blacks hit straight back from the restart as center Conrad Smith burst down the touchline before slipping the ball inside for winger Sivivatu to finish off.
Carter converted and then added a 69th-minute penalty to take the lead out to 30-7 and maintain his 100 percent goalkicking record in the game.
Wallabies captain Elsom added his team’s second try with four minutes remaining and playmaker Cooper, who had been well shackled by the All Blacks’ defense, added the extra points to complete the scoring.
“You can’t really win the game when you’re going backwards,” Cooper told Fox Sports. “It’s pretty tough for us but we’ve got to work at it. We’ve just got to get our heads right. We can still win the Tri-Nations.”