Australia maintained their unbeaten run under new coach Robbie Deans with a 34-19 victory over New Zealand in the Tri-Nations on Saturday.
The Wallabies chalked up their fifth win on the trot under Deans after a seven-try thriller at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium to hand the All Blacks their second straight defeat and storm to the top of the Tri-Nations standings.
Australia have nine points after their 16-9 win over world champions South Africa last weekend while New Zealand and the Springboks are level on five points each.
New Zealand, who suffered their first loss at home in five years when they were beaten by South Africa two weeks ago, briefly took the lead early in the second half but were unable to hold out an inspired Australian team.
The Wallabies, who are starting to rebuild after luring Deans over from New Zealand, led 17-12 at the break after a frantic first half featuring four tries but still had to survive a strong fightback from the Kiwis.
The Australians raced to 10-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes after New Zealand lock Brad Thorn was sin-binned for a high tackle on Matt Giteau.
The Australian flyhalf, who also kicked four conversions and a drop goal, landed the penalty.
Giteau then threw the final pass for rugby league convert Ryan Cross, who was called into the side to replace injured captain Stirling Mortlock, to score untouched after wing Lote Tuqiri had made the initial break.
The All Blacks opened their account in the 24th minute when fullback Mils Muliaina crashed over after launching a counterattack from deep inside the New Zealand half.
But the Australians stretched their lead to 12 points when fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper hacked the ball downfield and wing Peter Hynes won the race to the ball to score the try.
New Zealand cut the margin to five points when hooker Andrew Hore beat three defenders to score on the stroke of halftime after they opted for a quick tap.
The All Blacks snatched the lead when scrumhalf Andy Ellis burrowed his way over four minutes into the second half after the elusive Dan Carter broke the defence.
Australian edged back in front when flanker Rocky Elsom galloped through a gaping hole to score near the posts and Giteau added the extras.
New Zealand were unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty try when Cross pulled down Sitiveni Sivivatu when the All Blacks winger looked certain to score but struggled to create any further chances as the Wallabies dominated the last quarter.
Giteau provided the Australians with an eight-point buffer with a drop goal 13 minutes from the end then lock James Horwill sealed the win and the bonus point when he galloped through a gaping hole to score five minutes from the end. – Reuters