WELLINGTON, September 19 – The All Blacks salvaged some respectability from their 2009 Tri-Nations campaign when they overran Australia 33-6 in the championship finale here on Saturday.With South Africa having deservedly locked away the silverware already, the win secured second place for New Zealand and left Australia with the wooden spoon.
In a match played in ideal conditions, the All Blacks scored three tries with Cory Jane crossing in the first half while Ma’a Nonu and Joe Rokocoko touched down in the closing 10 minutes.
Dan Carter converted all three and added four penalties while Matt Giteau kicked a penalty for Australia, to have them ahead 3-0 early in the game, and Berrick Barnes added a drop goal.
Apart from the scrums, which seldom settled according to the recipe, the All Blacks crucially outplayed Australia in the lineouts and at the breakdown where they had struggled earlier in the year.
Coach Graham Henry had made five changes to his under pressure side who were beaten by South Africa last week, and the team played in a manner that showed they knew a further loss could lead to a major overhaul.
But with a firm ground and a less intimidating forward opposition than they faced against the Springboks, the All Blacks were able to unleash their attacking game in a fast-paced encounter.
"We’re delighted at the performance. It’s been a while coming," a relieved Henry said, while acknowledging the Springboks remained the best team in the world.
But the All Blacks have "been under huge pressure and they’ve responded to that pressure and played particularly well," he added, singling out the loose forward trio of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Adam Thomson for special praise.
The Wallabies were made to pay for the high penalty count that has plagued them all year with three early Carter penalties putting them on the backfoot and they never recovered.
By winning, Henry’s men avoided becoming the first All Blacks side to lose three home Tests in a year while they inflicted on Robbie Deans the legacy of being the first Wallabies coach to lose six successive Tests to New Zealand.
It was also the Wallabies 10th straight defeat in New Zealand where they last won in 2001, the year they last won the Tri-Nations.
Australia, fresh from victory over the Springboks in their last outing, were expected to challenge the All Blacks across the field but after an even opening stanza they were outplayed as the game progressed.
"This young group took a step (beating South Africa) and they have now experienced both extremes," Deans said.
"The disappointing thing for us was that we had been competitive throughout until the last 10 minutes essentially when the game came out of our reach and how damaging that is will depend on the response."
As the penalties flowed in the first half, Carter had the All Blacks ahead 9-3 at the end of the first quarter but despite having ample ball there was insufficient enterprise to suggest a try was a possibility.
Their best attacking option with the ball in hand in the opening stanza ended with Kieran Read throwing a forward pass to an unmarked Rokocoko.
But the drought ended 10 minutes before the break when Jane celebrated his start on the right wing in place of the injured Sitiveni Sivivatu.
With Isaia Toeava sin-binned, and the All Blacks down to 14 men, Jane leaped above Wallabies fullback James O’Conner to gather in a high kick and raced 30 metres to the line.
Carter added the extra two points for the All Blacks to lead 16-9 at the turn and kicked his fourth penalty early in the second half to put the All Blacks up 19-6.
A break by Jane and Toeava midway into the second half split the Australian defence but the final pass to Ma’a Nonu was spilled two metres from the line.
But Nonu came good in the closing minutes with a trademark bullocking run in which he swept aside the tackle attempts of Matt Giteau and replacement Pek Cowan to score.
Then on the stroke of fulltime Rokocoko, who had struggled for form all season, dived over in the corner for his 45th try in 60 Tests.