All Blacks move to brink of Tri-Nations glory

New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup and all but secured the Tri-Nations trophy with a 20-10 victory over Australia at Lancaster Park on Saturday.

The victory, courtesy of converted tries by fullback Mils Muliaina and centre Conrad Smith and two penalties from flyhalf Daniel Carter, was also the All Blacks’ ninth successive win against the Wallabies. Fullback Kurtley Beale scored an opportunist try, while flyhalf Matt Giteau added a conversion and penalty for the Wallabies, who have now matched their worst losing streak against New Zealand. They also lost nine Tests from 1936-47.

The All Blacks have 19 points in the Tri-Nations and need just one more point in their remaining two games against South Africa on August 21 and Australia on September 11 to be certain of sealing a fifth title in six years.

Australia remained on four points after three matches with South Africa, yet to register a point, bottom of the standings.

Both sides started at a frenetic pace, sending the ball wide in sweeping movements, though the Wallabies spent most of their time being hammered behind the advantage line by the swarming All Blacks defence.

The All Blacks were able to turn that defence into attack when they turned the ball over and Joe Rokocoko put Muliaina clear with 25 metres to run down the left hand touchline for the opening try. Carter converted for a 7-0 lead.

The Wallabies, however, responded almost immediately when an all Blacks backline movement broke down and Beale scooted away. Giteau converted to level the scores.

Smith grabbed the All Blacks’ second try after the home side again used wide passes to put the outside players into space and Carter added the sideline conversion.

Giteau and Carter then traded penalties and while the All Blacks spent the final few minutes of the half attacking the Wallabies line, they were unable to add to their advantage and went into the break with a 17-10 lead.

The second half, however, failed to match the first with much of it played between the 22-metre areas and while the Wallabies dominated possession, their one-dimensional game plan of hammering away at the defensive line was continually thwarted.

Carter finally broke the deadlock after the break when he slotted his second penalty with 10 minutes remaining to give the All Blacks some breathing room, though neither side were able to score again. – Reuters

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