New Zealand opens Rugby Championship with win

Associated Press

8/18/2012 10:12:58 AM

SYDNEY, Australia -- New Zealand opened its Rugby Championship campaign with a comfortable 27-19 victory over Australia on Saturday, extending its dominance over its trans-Tasman rival.

The All Blacks rarely looked tested against a nervous-looking Australia as Israel Dagg and Cory Jane crossed for first half tries, with Dan Carter adding 17 points for the world champions in front of 76,877 people at Sydney's Olympic stadium.

The All Blacks have now won nine of the past 11 Tests against Australia, including victory in the semifinals of the 2011 World Cup, en route to its second world championship crown last November.

"I'm really pleased that we were able to get that win away from home and even more pleased to make sure they didn't get a point as far as the championship goes," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "I thought there were some very good displays from our guys."

Nathan Sharpe scored Australia's lone try, with flyhalf Berrick Barnes kicking 14 points.

Australia coach Robbie Deans lamented the basic errors that put his team on the back foot throughout the contest.

"Some of the errors out there today were not acceptable under any circumstances in any competition."

New Zealand hosts Australia in Auckland next Saturday, with another victory enough to retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 10th consecutive year and take a strong position in the inaugural southern hemisphere's four-nation Rugby Championship.

Rarely have the victories been as comfortable as this for the All Blacks, especially in hostile terrain, but throughout the match the Wallabies looked in awe of the calibre of the world champions and rarely tested visitors defence.

"It was probably not the most perfect game in the world but when you get two sides coming off the breaks we've had and playing at the intensity we're playing at, you're going to get errors," Hansen said.

On blunting Australia's attack, Hansen revealed his team had worked on nullifying the impact of Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia, Australia's key weapon.

"We worked hard to keep sure that Will (Genia) didn't get too many snipes around the edge. I think he only got one, so we're pleased with that."

A penalty goal by Wallabies flyhalf Barnes in the 2nd minute opened the scoring after referee Alain Rolland penalized New Zealand at the match's first scrum.

All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter tied the scores at 3-all with a penalty goal shortly before the world champions took the lead for good through Israel Dagg's try in the 14th minute.

From a midfield scrum, Carter ran across the Wallabies line and found enough space to release Dagg down the sideline and the fullback had enough strength to easily shrug off a poor tackle attempt by Australia's Kurtley Beale. Carter converted the try for a deserved 10-3 lead.

Australia, who has lost its past three tests against New Zealand in Sydney, appeared rattled and conceded another soft penalty for a ruck infringement. Carter made no mistake with the kick attempt for a 13-3 lead on 20 minutes.

The Wallabies first half was characterized by several errors, with Scott Higginbotham guilty of spurning a good scoring chance, but it was Beale's simple drop off a Carter kick which proved the most costly.

From the subsequent scrum the All Blacks again showed their guile and found enough space for winger Jane to dive over in the corner for an 18-3 lead.

The hosts struggled for any forward momentum in a disjointed first half before evergreen lock Nathan Sharpe kept Australia in the contest when he barged over from short range off Will Genia's pass. Barnes converted to leave the Wallabies trailing by eight at the break.

The Wallabies approach was more positive in the second half and a late hit on captain David Pocock in the 44th minute gave Barnes a simple penalty attempt to reduce the arrears to five.

New Zealand quickly reasserted its control through another Carter penalty to lead 21-13 after 48 minutes, before Barnes again narrowed the scores to 21-16 with another penalty.

Dagg had an opportunity to seal victory for the All Blacks in the 50th minute but his pass failed to find the unmarked Ma'a Nonu out wide, after the impressive fullback had again broken through the Wallabies defensive line.

Another Carter penalty goal in the 62nd extended the lead to eight points and only a brilliant cover tackle by Adam Ashley Cooper prevented Hosea Gear from scoring in the corner and ending the Wallabies resistance.

Barnes gave Australia a late opportunity to steal victory with another penalty goal, leaving the hosts five points behind with four minutes to play.

However it was the All Blacks who had the last say, with Carter adding another penalty goal, to take his career tally to 1,301 in Tests and deny Australia a bonus point for a loss of less than seven points.

"To give them credit they put us under pressure, but more the unforced errors that really created the field position pressure and I guess one-on-one tackles and set piece tries, shouldn't happen," said Deans.

Despite the comfortable nature of the victory and New Zealand's long dominance over the Wallabies, captain Richie McCaw warned his team against complacency ahead of the return match on Aug. 25 in Auckland.

"History's shown that when you play back to back tests in a week and you don't get your prep right you trip up," McCaw said. "We had a lesson like that when we played Ireland (in June)."

"That's our challenge is to get past this game and work out ways that we can turn up and play better, because there is no doubt the Wallabies will do that."