New Zealand retains Bledisloe Cup after blanking Australia

Associated Press

8/25/2012 11:23:23 AM

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Flyhalf Dan Carter kicked 17 points as New Zealand beat Australia 22-0 on Saturday to extend its decade-long winning streak in Bledisloe Cup tests and remain unbeaten after two rounds of the four-nation Rugby Championship.

Carter kicked three penalties to give New Zealand a 9-0 lead after a first half in which its misfiring attack and Australia's resolute defence limited scoring chances at Eden Park.

He added two more penalties in the second half, including an early shot from 51 metres that cracked Australia's weakening morale, and slotted the conversion of a try to Israel Dagg to seal New Zealand's emphatic win.

In doing so, Carter lifted his overall record points tally in tests to 1,318 and his New Zealand-record total in matches against Australia to 313.

New Zealand took a 2-0 lead in its three-match Bledisloe Cup series against Australia to retain the trophy it has held since 2003. The result extended the All Blacks' winning streak against the Wallabies at Eden Park to 14 matches, stretching back to 1986, and they remain unbeaten against all nations at the Auckland stadium at which it won last year's World Cup final in 33 tests since 1992.

Defeat will likely increase pressure on the Wallabies' New Zealand-born coach, Robbie Deans, who has now lost 14 of 17 tests against New Zealand since he became Australia's head coach in 2008. He has a 55 per cent win-loss record in all internationals.

Deans needed to inspire a performance from the Wallabies that substantially improved on last weekend's 27-19 loss to the All Blacks in Sydney to silence his critics, and he failed to do that on Saturday. While Australia stepped up its defensive performance and was more competitive at the breakdown than a week earlier, its overall performance lacked coherence or direction.

Australia never threatened the All Blacks' line and rarely ventured into New Zealand territory, except at kickoffs. While the Wallabies had 54 per cent of possession in the first half, almost all of that ball was inside their own territory and the team spent almost two thirds of the second half camped in its own half.

New Zealand ran its increasing share of possession at every opportunity, making 13 line-breaks to three in the first half and a greater number in the second. By contrast, Australia kicked away its few fragments of useable possession.

Australia was saved from a much greater defeat by the inefficiency of the All Blacks attack. After blowing several try-scoring chances in a rusty performance in Sydney, New Zealand again failed to produce a clinical finishing performance.

Backrower Keiran Read and winger Hosea Gear both lost the ball over the Australian line in the second half, while Carter threw an uncharacteristically bad pass which cost Gear another try with only minutes remaining. New Zealand led 22-0 from the 47th minute and its inability to add to that total was due to Australia's defensive effort and its own lack of ruthlessness.

"To lock the Bledisloe Cup up for another year, I'm very proud of the way the boys worked," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. "We had a very good week and realized that the Wallabies would come back a bit more intensely. They certainly did that but we showed what we were made of when we didn't have the ball.

"We still let a few tries go begging but a win's a win which is great. We said last week that there was a bit of rust, but this week there was no excuse. It was better but by no means perfect but we'll definitely take it."

McCaw said the All Blacks had identified and been able to shut down the attacking threats of Wallabies scrumhalf and captain Will Genia -- who spent the last 10 minutes of the first half in the sin bin for a professional foul -- and recalled flyhalf Quade Cooper.

The Wallabies looked to Cooper to spark their flagging attacking game. But the talented No. 10, lacking match play, brought little to a lineup clearly lacking in confidence. New Zealand prevented Australia getting over the gain line and playing on the front foot, shutting it down with well-organized and layered defence.

The All Blacks also brought a strong sense of discipline to their own game, avoiding rash penalties and denying Australia a single shot at goal in the match.

Genia acknowledged the widening gap between his own team and New Zealand.

"It was very disappointing, but you have to give credit to this All Blacks side," Genia said. "They're a great team, they've achieved so much and the best thing about them is they're consistent. You know they're going to turn up week in and week out.

"To be honest, I think we got taught a lesson tonight."

Genia said the Wallabies thought the match had been relatively even in the first half and had hoped for a good start to the second spell to threaten the All Blacks. Instead, New Zealand started more strongly through Carter's long-range penalty in the first minute of the half and Dagg's try four minutes later.

The try resulted from New Zealand's typical ability to mount attacks through multiple phases. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith picked out runners with quick ruck ball and Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, Dagg, lock Luke Romano and Read all made telling breaks before Smith's last pass put the fullback into a gap.

New Zealand couldn't repeat the performance and, though it had an overwhelming weight of possession through the last 30 minutes, it was unable to build on its lead.

"They got first points in the second half, and they're the sort of side when the smell blood they just take it," Genia said.