All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup

By Daniel Richardson

The All Blacks have retained the Bledisloe Cup with a 27-16 win over the Wallabies in Wellington. Photo / Getty
The All Blacks have retained the Bledisloe Cup with a 27-16 win over the Wallabies in Wellington. Photo / Getty

The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup in Wellington tonight with a 27-16 win over Australia and the New Zealand rugby public were given a glimpse in to the future.

Debutant first-five Tom Taylor looked assured running the cutter, while blindside flanker Steven Luatua was immense in only his third test match and, maybe, the search for Jerome Kaino's long-term successor is over.

Luatua's brilliant break at the end of the first half laid on the momentum for Ben Smith's second try as the right winger touched down for the seventh time in 2013.

It was a crucial score that sent the All Blacks to a 15-6 lead at the break and broke the Wallabies' spirit after they had enjoyed the better of much of the opening spell.

Australia tidied up their attack and were more accurate with the ball but couldn't find a way to penetrate the All Blacks' line and had to settle for two penalties courtesy of second-five Christian Leali'ifano in the opening 40 minutes.

New Zealand finally got on the board when Smith found himself on the end of the chain in the 27th minute and flew down the right-hand touchline to score.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said when they picked Taylor, following the injuries to Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, his accurate goal-kicking was one of the major reasons and he experienced an interesting test with the boot.

His first penalty attempt never looked on target, he then made an easier conversion and penalty before he attempted a penalty goal from inside his own half that just went wide, while his conversion for Smith's second try hit both posts and bounced away.

With the scoreboard in their favour and a home crowd of 38,000 screaming them home at the Cake Tin, the All Blacks started the second half in exciting fashion.

Smith looked to have cut through a hole but was called back for a forward pass before Australia's James O'Connor ran a terrific line and was on his way to the chalk before Taylor flew across to make a brilliant cover tackle.

The All Blacks leaked plenty of points in last week's 47-29 win in Sydney but their defence was the difference tonight as they rarely fell off an assignment.

Hometown lad Dane Coles was introduced to the game in the 47th minute and the hooker received a rousing reception as the All Blacks' futuristic look was injected with more youth.

This certainly wasn't a flawless performance though as the lineout was patchy again, particularly in the first half, and the All Blacks probably gave away too many penalties for their liking.

Taylor had his radar working as he added another three points early in the second spell before before Leali'ifano returned serve in the 60th minute.

Australia's scrum was woeful throughout as the New Zealand forward pack were huge in the eight-man shove, which would have pleased loosehead prop Tony Woodcock who was playing in his 100th test.

The veteran bookend joined Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Keven Mealamu as the only New Zealanders to reach the milestone and left the ground with little fuss when he was substituted in the 61st minute.

When Taylor added his fourth penalty with 10 minutes left, the win looked to be secure but Australia were thrown a lifeline when Ma'a Nonu tossed a wayward pass that was intercepted by wing Israel Folau.

The code-hopper then sprinted 60 metres to the line as Australia were back in the game at 24-16.

But when Israel Dagg, who was given the kicking duties as Taylor was momentarily injured, eased over his first penalty in test rugby from close range with five minutes left, the argument was settled.

New Zealand 27 (Ben Smith 2 tries; Tom Taylor 4 pen, con, Israel Dagg con)
Australia 16 (Israel Folau try; Christian Leali'ifano 3 pen, con)
HT: 15-6

- APNZ

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