WELLINGTON // The All Blacks continued their eight-season domestic hex on the Wallabies with a thumping 33-6 victory yesterday. There had been widespread belief in Australia after two close defeats this year they could nail their first triumph in New Zealand since Dunedin in 2001 when they crossed the Tasman this time.
For most of the match however, the All Blacks were superior at the breakdown and set pieces and kept a stranglehold on the visitors with their impenetrable defence. They had their hands around the Wallabies' throat from the opening stages and continued to suffocate them throughout the Test. That momentum hurt and then blew out to its full effect in the last six minutes as the All Blacks crossed for two converted tries for an emphatic win.
"We are delighted, it has been a long while coming but I thought the guys played well in all facets of the game," the coach Graham Henry said. "The team has been under huge pressure, I think you understand that, and they responded to all that. We had good structure and I think our work at the tackle area was exceptional." The All Blacks were patient and built their game and the pressure throughout the match. Wallaby playmakers with huge reputations - Matt Giteau and Berrick Barnes - were rarely sighted as the All Blacks' imposing defence shut down their pace while teenage fullback James O'Connor's second Test on New Zealand soil this season was one to forget.
He dropped several high balls, was beaten in the air by Cory Jane for a try and impersonated a headless chicken several other times as he tried, unwisely, to run the ball back from his own goalline. When they made five changes for this game, the All Blacks ran the risk of suffering stage fright and uncertainty. But they produced their best performance of the season. They shelved the tedious kicking game employed in previous games and kept the ball in hand for long periods.
It was a big turnaround in a week in which Henry's side suffered criticism after their third loss this season to the Springboks. The splintered line-out of a week ago had a Rolls-Royce look to it after an initial mishap. The scrum was powerful, though that was one area of the game where referee Craig Joubert was never able to settle the packs, while the All Blacks dominated the breakdowns. Richie McCaw, Adam Thomson and Kieran Read were too fast and powerful over the ball for the Wallabies while their tight five colleagues brought a relentless nose for the ball.
Any Wallaby attack was instantly repelled before Ma'a Nonu - followed by Joe Rokocoko - scored tries converted by Daniel Carter to leave the visitors lamenting. Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said: "There wasn't a lot of intensity and we paid the price." firstname.lastname@example.org