Israel Dagg scored two tries as the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 29-9 in Wellington on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The result ensured that the Bledisloe Cup will stay in New Zealand for a 14th successive year and that the third match between these teams in Auckland on 22 October will be a dead rubber.
The Wallabies were far more competitive in Wellington than in Sydney last weekend, when they suffered a heavy 42-8 defeat, but never looked like winning this fixture. The visitors' defence was better but still not good enough as they missed 30 tackles (compared to nine from the All Blacks). Their lineout also let them down as they lost four of their own throw-ins, including three in the first half.
The All Blacks were a bit too loose during the first half, and came out in the second wanting to play more direct rugby. And they did produce a better performance, scoring another two tries to wrap up the win, although Beauden Barrett's inconsistent goal-kicking will concern coach Steve Hansen. It didn't matter much here, but it could in a tighter Test against better opposition.
The Wallabies started this match like a team that had copped plenty of criticism over the past seven days and had a point to prove.
However, the All Blacks were still able to take charge with an early try that began with a darting run from Aaron Smith. After taking the ball through a couple more phases, the hosts sent it wide to debutant Anton Lienert-Brown who, with his first touch, threw an over-the-top pass in the tackle that took out two defenders and sent Israel Dagg, playing on the right wing, over to score. Barrett slotted the conversion.
The Wallabies then won three successive penalties during a good passage of play for them, the last of which Bernard Foley sent through the uprights. But they failed to control the restart and conceded a penalty that Barrett kicked.
Another penalty from Foley reduced the gap to four, but Barrett then scythed through the Wallabies defence and put Dagg over for his second try that made it 15-6 after 21 minutes.
Barrett missed the conversion and then a penalty on the half-hour mark, with Reece Hodge (who had replaced a dazed Adam Ashley-Cooper early in the match) then kicking a 50m penalty that sailed well over the crossbar to bring the Wallabies back within striking distance.
The vistors were reduced to 14 men three minutes before the break when Adam Coleman was yellow-carded for a late shoulder charge on Ben Smith, but they did well not to concede any points when he was off.
But no sooner had Coleman returned to the field than the All Blacks scored their third try. Dagg leaped into the air to reclaim possession from Aaron Smith's box kick, with the hosts then sending the ball wide to Julian Savea, who dived over in the left corner. Barrett's conversion gave the All Blacks a comfortable 22-9 lead.
The All Blacks' fourth try, scored in the 62nd minute, was birthed from a lineout driving maul inside the Wallabies 22. When the maul stopped moving, the ball went wide to Ben Smith, who cut back past two defenders before being brought down just short of the tryline. But there would be no stopping Sam Cane from close range.
Neither side was able to add to its tally, with Nick Phipps knocking on over the tryline in the last minute of the match, and it was left to Kieran Read to lift the Bledisloe Cup.
All Blacks – Tries: Israel Dagg (2), Julian Savea, Sam Cane. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalty: Barrett.
Wallabies – Penalties: Bernard Foley (2), Reece Hodge.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Ala’alatoa, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Tevita Kuridrani, 23 Reece Hodge.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images