Saturday, July 18, 2009
New Zealand drew first blood in the 2009 Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations series with an entertaining, hard-fought 22-16 victory over Australia in Auckland on Saturday.
With talisman skipper Richie McCaw back to lead the way, the All Blacks shrugged off their indifferent early-season form to come from behind and lay down a marker ahead of Tests in South Africa in the coming two weekends.
McCaw produced a strong performance but the return of Rodney So'oialo, Conrad Smith and Sitiveni Sivivatu also helped instil some composure and direction in the team.
The Australians raced to a 10-0 lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock as Berrick Barnes ghosted past some indifferent All Blacks defence to touch down after four minutes and Matt Giteau's conversion and a penalty gave them a handy lead.
Stephen Donald then missed his first shot at goal but made no mistake with his second attempt a minute later when Benn Robinson was marched 10 metres for throwing the ball away to put the penalty within kicking distance, but a poor decision by Donald in the 18th minute proved to be a turning point in the game as the New Zealanders got their tails up.
The ball came back off the legs of Giteau who dived forward to smother it before popping the ball up to Barnes. He evaded the All Blacks defence but held onto the ball too long then saw his pass to George Smith hit the flanker and go forward with the line begging. McCaw was then penalised for playing the ball off his feet.
Giteau saw his second penalty hit the upright before going over to put the visitors 13-3 ahead, but the All Blacks got themselves right back in the game though with a try to their skipper.
The ball found its way to Donald but he was nailed in the tackle and Conrad Smith gathered the ball and set McCaw away. Donald's conversion reduced the deficit to 13-10 and the score remained that way to half-time.
Donald got the All Blacks ahead early in the second half with two successful penalty kicks before Giteau replied to level the scores 16-16.
Hooker Stephen Moore was penalised for killing the ball allowing Donald to slot his fifth three-pointer of the night six minutes from time to put the home side 22-16 in front.
Credit: Press Association