SYDNEY, September 11 – New Zealand surged home to steal a 23-22 win over Australia and finish the Tri-Nations series unbeaten at the Sydney Olympic stadium on Saturday.The All Blacks trailed 22-9 but converted tries by skipper Richie McCaw and number eight Kieran Read secured their 10th consecutive victory over the Wallabies and their 15th straight win against allcomers.
The Wallabies, coming off their last-gasp 41-39 win over the Springboks in Bloemfontein last weekend, looked poised for their first win over the All Blacks since 2008, but they could not withstand the Kiwis’ intensity in the decisive final minutes.
Australia led 14-6 at halftime and were 13 points in front after winning most of the battles against the world’s number one team, but the physical effort of three consecutive weeks of Test matches took its toll.
The All Blacks’ triumph was a great tonic for their country after last weekend’s Christchurch quake, New Zealand’s biggest in decades, left an estimated 100,000 buildings damaged, even though nobody was killed.
New Zealand had already clinched the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup for an eighth straight year after winning 49-28 in Melbourne and 20-10 in Christchurch earlier in the season.
Scrum-half Piri Weepu’s goalkicking was the difference as he landed three penalties and two conversions, while Wallaby Matt Giteau could only score with three of his seven kicks before he was replaced by Kurtley Beale.
Australia had more possession and territory and led through the only try of the opening half to winger James O’Connor.
Both sides came close to scoring in an frenetic opening.
All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu was tackled into the corner post by Beale and the video referee turned down a try for Wallaby winger Lachie Turner minutes later.
But the All Black defence was breached in the 16th minute when number eight Ben McCalman picked up the ball from the back of the scrum and made a break.
McCalman drew the last line of defence to send O’Connor racing over in the right-hand corner.
The Wallabies would have led by a greater margin at halftime had Giteau been more accurate with his goalkicking.
Adam Ashley-Cooper scored Australia’s second try seven minutes after halftime off a long pass from scrumhalf Will Genia to push the home side’s advantage out to 19-6.
Weepu kept the All Blacks within range at 19-9 with his third penalty.
Beale took over the goalkicking duties from off-form Giteau and landed a penalty to give the Wallabies a 13 point lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
The All Blacks were rewarded for their pressure on the Wallabies’ line when Read and McCaw combined off a scrum win for the All Blacks skipper McCaw to score after O’Connor was caught out coming off his wing.
Weepu converted for New Zealand to trail 22-16 with 11 minutes left.
The All Blacks ramped up the pressure and controlled the ball to score their second try next to the uprights by Reid and Weepu’s conversion put them in front 23-22 into the final seven minutes.