New Zealand resisted a late Australia fight back to win 28-24 and claim their ninth Tri-Nations title.
The All Blacks built their challenge on tackle point dominance, patient defence and an accurate kicking game. They excelled in all these facets of play and the Wallabies were reacting to the All Blacks rather than imposing themselves on them for the bulk of the Test.
The hosts did, however, exceed expectations at the set phases, excelling on their own lineout ball and troubling the Blacks on theirs, while also achieving parity at scrum time – and this kept them in the game.
Flyhalf Matt Giteau had a solid platform from which to orchestrate play, but he struggled initially, kicking poorly and often passing the ball behind those on his outside halting any momentum they had built up.
He wasn’t helped by the fact that his side were being dominated at the tackle point and subsequently the breakdowns, ruining the quality of service he received.
But the Wallabies remedied their flaws to so extent as the match wore on, committing more cleaners to the rucks and Giteau’s potency was amplified, seen by the fact that he was prominent in both their tries either side of half-time.
Blacks pivot Dan Carter controlled the game well when in possession, blending midfield bombs with good tactical kicks, sniping breaks and good distribution. He cause was aided by some very efficient ruck cleaning, which ensured he received quick ball.
Carter’s halfback partner Jimmy Carter was prominent in their first try, tapping quickly and surging into the Wallabies’ red zone. The recycle was quick and this allowed the Blacks to exploit a massive overlap – Mils Muliaina rounding off the move.
The Wallabies just could get going, blunted by an almighty breakdown contest. They had scoring opportunities though, the best of which was butchered when Wycliff Palu opted to hold onto the ball when he should have passed to one of three men on his outside.
But they improved as the half progressed and grabbed a try against the run of play just before the break. The ball was taken through a number of phases before Giteau kicked crossfield to Peter Hynes who collected and dished inside to Adam Ashley-Cooper who bust through two tackles en route to the tryline line. Giteau added the extras for a 10-7 half-time lead.
The Wallabies then set themselves up brilliantly with a try four minutes into the second half, James Horwill powering over after Giteau had danced through the Blacks’ defence.
But the Wallabies capitulated as the Blacks kicked into overdrive to score 21 unanswered points.
The first of three decisive tries came when loosehead prop only Woodcock found himself in space on the left wing and outsprinted the cover defence.
Piri Weepu, on for Jimmy Cowan, thrived as the game opened up and profited after Rodney So’oialo, who was outstanding throughout the Test, had decimated the Wallabies’ defence.
The host’s defensive structure had been solid throughout but it fell pieces under immense pressure. Carter was the beneficiary, corkscrewing out of two tackles to register what looked to be the nail in the coffin score and conversion.
At 28-17 with three minutes remaining the result looked certain, but the Wallabies pushed hard and showed that when they built patiently through the phases they could trouble the Blacks. A Ryan Cross try which Giteau converted gave them hope of a dramatic comeback, but their desperate efforts to cross the chalk proved futile.
Australia - Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, James Horwill, Ryan Cross. Conversions: Matt Giteau (3). Penalty: Giteau.
New Zealand - Tries: Mils Muliaina, Tony Woodcock, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter. Conversions: Carter (4).