New Zealand still the team to beat

With a comfortable win over Australia, the All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup and declare their World Cup intentions.

    On your marks... New Zealand are ready to prove the world they can live up to the big occasion [GALLO/GETTY] 

    New Zealand left no one in doubt they will be one of the favourites for the rugby World Cup after a clinical 30-14 victory over Australia in their Tri-Nations clash at Eden Park on Saturday.

    The All Blacks and Wallabies are favoured to meet in the final as the world's two top-ranked teams and New Zealand's authoritative victory, in front of 54,711 fans, gave them a valuable pyschological edge as they attempt to end 24 years of World Cup failures.

    With the Tri-Nations shortened because of the World Cup, which starts next month in New Zealand, the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with three well-taken tries to Ma'a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Sitiveni Sivivatu.

    Flyhalf Daniel Carter added 15 points with three conversions, two penalties and a drop goal, while Digby Ioane and Rocky Elsom scored tries for the Wallabies.

    Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper converted both tries, though the Wallabies had plenty of scoring opportunities only to be thwarted by a brutal All Blacks' defence. James O'Connor also missed three penalties.

    "It was great to win and the Bledisloe Cup is very important to Richie (McCaw) and the boys," All Blacks coach Graham Henry told reporters.

    "They're delighted about that and the way they played the game.

    "They played very professionally. I thought the defence was outstanding."

    While Carter opened the scoring with a 38-metres penalty after David Pocock was penalised at the breakdown, the All Blacks scored two well-worked tries after soaking up sustained pressure from the Wallabies.

    Scrumhalf Piri Weepu sparked the first when he exploited a weak Wallabies' blindside defence to sprint untouched for 30 metres before the home side switched play back across field for Nonu to barrel over.

    The All Blacks' second try again came from deep inside their own half as they burst down field before Nonu got within centimetres of the line only to be stopped just short. Mealamu, however, scooped the ball up and wrestled his way over.

    Carter converted to give the All Blacks a 17-0 lead, but O'Connor could have reduced that advantage twice in the final 10 minutes of the half only to scuff both penalty attempts.

    O'Connor missed another penalty opportunity after the break and Carter twisted the knife, extending New Zealand's lead to 20-0 when he landed a drop goal from 25 metres.

              Nonu scored the first try to put All Blacks on the way to victory over Australia [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Australia, however, showed their potent attacking ability when Genia and Beale combined to put Ioane into space for the Wallabies' first try.

    Australia looked to have gone to sleep at the re-start, though, as Kieran Read contested the ball and Smith scooped it up before sprinting clear and putting Sivivatu over. Carter's sideline conversion extended the lead to 27-7.

    Carter converted a scrum penalty to give the home side an unassailable lead with about 10 minutes remaining, before Elsom added a consolation try with less than five minutes remaining.

    "We are pretty disappointed with our effort," Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.

    "Tactically, we probably didn't help ourselves. We allowed the All Blacks to establish the d-line (defensive line) and allowed them to establish some line speed in that defence and that stymied our attack.

    "We left a lot of points out there as well."

    New Zealand's victory will give the team hope they can finally end their World Cup curse when they kick-off their campaign against Tonga on September 9 in Auckland.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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