x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

All Blacks overpower Australia to reach Rugby World Cup final

New Zealand will meet France in next Sunday's final with an impressive 20-6 win over the Wallabies in Auckland.

Ma'a nonu touches down for the only try of New Zealand's semi-final against Australia.
Ma'a nonu touches down for the only try of New Zealand's semi-final against Australia.

AUCKLAND // New Zealand overcame a stern test to beat Australia 20-6 and book a place against France in next week's Rugby World Cup final.

The All Blacks were tenacious in defence, which kept the Wallabies to just six kicking points in the first half and will now go into next Sunday's final at Eden Park strong favourites against the French, who beat Wales yesterday, in a repeat of the 1987 final, the last time the All Blacks won the tournament.

"It's awesome," Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain said. "We realised that we were going to have to front up and we had do the job for 80 minutes.

"The intensity was there and every single man did their bit tonight. We've got next week to look forward to."

It was a 70th minute penalty, which was the defining moment of the match, which was earned when the All Blacks put pressure on an Australia scrum just outside their 22-metre line.

The whole of the All Blacks pack rose in a rare celebration after a entrenched effort in the second period. McCaw heaped praise on the front and second row forwards.

"One to five have been around a long time, that's been building and it was a pretty good performance tonight, but we need it next week," he said.

Piri Weepu slotted the ball straight through the middle of the posts for his second penalty of the half to give the host nation a 14-point cushion which their never looked threatened to squander, especially with the forwards fighting for every ball at the breakdown and Australia's handling errors.

"Credit to the All Blacks, they outplayed us and they deserved to win," James Horwill, the Wallabies captain, said.

Australia made a nerve-riddled start after Quade Cooper, the much talked about Wallabies fly-half, sent the kick-off straight into touch, and panic seemed to spread throughout the team, with James O'Connor, the winger, then tackled behind his own line.

The All Blacks were rampant in pursuit of an early try, and it duly arrived after just six minutes when Israel Dagg, the fullback, made a telling thrust through the midfield.

Dagg then showed strength in fending off the Australian flanker Rocky Elsom, and then awareness when he produced a one-handed off-load before being tackled into touch to allow Nonu to finished off in the corner.

New Zealand could have doubled their advantage, but Weepu, the scrum-half, missed the resulting conversion, and then hit the upright with an easy penalty chance.

Australia, though, were at sixes and sevens, being split open by New Zealand's eager runners with ease, and a Weepu penalty made it 8-0 before the Wallabies launched their counter-attack sparked by Digby Ioane, the winger.

His weaving run almost led to a try, but Australia had to settle for an O'Connor penalty.

Aaron Cruden, a squad replacement for Dan Carter, the All Blacks' injured fly-half, maintained an eight-point gap with a drop-goal from distance.

It was largely one-way traffic, with Australia only fleetingly threatening, although their cause was not helped by the enigmatic Cooper having one of his substandard games.

Australia, quarter-final conquerors of South Africa, were hanging on far too early in the contest and New Zealand pushed for more points midway through the second quarter.

Cooper, though, then slotted his first drop-goal in Test rugby, cutting the gap to five points and keeping Australia alive, but another Weepu penalty restored a healthy All Blacks advantage with a 14-6 half-time lead.