DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) Flyhalf Aaron Cruden scored one try, made another and kicked 18 points as New Zealand beat Australia 41-33 in a Bledisloe Cup rugby test on Saturday.
Cruden's first shot at goal, from more than 50 meters at Dunedin's indoor stadium, was a disaster, barely reaching the height of the crossbar and falling well short of the posts. He shrugged off that embarrassment to kick seven of his next nine attempts as New Zealand beat Australia for the third time this season and won its 30th straight test at home.
Cruden contributed a pin-point crossfield kick to create a try for flanker Sam Cane, then scored a try of his own as New Zealand opened a 30-19 lead by halftime. Winger Julian Savea and captain Kieran Read also touched down for the All Blacks while Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani scored tries for Australia.
Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper, treated as a pantomime villain by New Zealand crowds who boo his every action, restored himself a little in their affections with one of his best performances against the All Blacks.
Cooper kicked three penalties, three conversions and a dropped goal for 18 points, defended stoutly and provided the pass that led to Ashley-Cooper's try just before halftime.
Toomua and Kuridrani both scored their first test tries for Australia who outscored New Zealand by two tries to one in the second half and played with both spirit and enterprise.
Saturday's match bridged a gap in both teams' seasons between the end of the Rugby Championships, which New Zealand won for the second straight year, and the All Blacks and Wallabies' tours to Japan, Britain and Europe.
New Zealand had already won the three-test Bledisloe Cup series by beating the Wallabies twice during the Rugby Championships and, with the impending tours and players keen to avoid injury, the defensive intensity of Saturday's match was low. The five tries and 67 points scored gave the match the flavor of a festival game but it was fast-paced and action-packed, enthralling a crowd of just less than 30,000.
New Zealand remained unbeaten in 2014 ahead of a tour on which it will play tests against Japan, France, England and Ireland. Late injuries to captain Richie McCaw and winger Cory Jane disrupted its preparation but it was again able to produce an outstanding display of backline skill.
"It was a great match. I think both teams just wanted to keep on playing," stand-in captain Read said. "It's awesome to win a match like this and we had to work hard which is what you want in these games.
"I guess when we got down their end we got points and that was the key to it. It was great that we could stick at it for 80 minutes."
Coach Steve Hansen had hoped New Zealand would maintain the standard it set in its 38-27 win over South Africa in Johannesburg two weeks ago, which clinched the Rugby Championships. That match was hailed as one of the best ever played and it was unlikely, particularly with the intrusion of injuries, that New Zealand would replicate that form.
It was still able to produce some sublime tries Cane's and Cruden's were its best though the defense was more porous than it has been this season.
"It wasn't perfect but you wouldn't expect it to be with where we've been and what we've done in the past three weeks," Hansen said.
Australia had the first lead of the match with a penalty to Cooper after three minutes. Cruden's first, failed penalty attempt went astray but it claimed the lead with a try after 10 minutes to powerful winger Julian Savea who linked on the blindside with fullback Israel Dagg.
Cruden converted for a 7-3 lead and the All Blacks didn't trail for the remainder of the match. Cruden and Cooper swapped penalties through the middle of the second half then Cane scored a breathtaking try which epitomized New Zealand's skill and daring.
Cruden put in a crossfield kick which Savea caught on the fly and Dagg continued the movement before passing to Cane who scored. With Cruden's conversion, New Zealand led 20-9.
Cruden then scored a brilliantly skillful try of his own after strong leadup work by Cane, Keven Mealamu, Woodcock and Read. Backrower Liam Messam ran into space out wide, sawing infield in search of support and handing the ball to Cruden whose try and conversion made the lead 30-12.
Australia hit back just before halftime with a try to Ashley-Cooper, created by a long and accurate pass from Cooper, who also converted.
Toomua scored after Kuridrani intercepted a pass from Savea in the 47th minute, cutting the lead to 33-26 and inflaming Australia's hopes of an upset. But Read's 54th minute try, after brilliant interpassing by Brodie Retallick, Cruden and Ma'a Nonu put New Zealand ahead 38-26 and snuffed out the Australian challenge.
"We're obviously bitterly disappointed with the result," said Australian captain James Horwill, who was replaced early in the second half. "We came here to win and we never like to lose but we're proud of the effort the boys put in. We went out swinging and that's what we wanted to do."
New Zealand 41 (Julian Savea, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Kieran Read tries; Cruden 3 conversions, 4 penalties; Beauden Barrett penalty), Australia 33 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Quade Cooper 3 conversions, 3 penalties, dropped goal). HT: 30-19.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings