The All Blacks mounted a compelling surge midway through the second half to beat the Wallabies 28-24 and claim their ninth Vodacom Tri-Nations title in the 2008 decider played at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
Dan Retief writes for SuperRugby that the Wallabies scored a pair of tries, by Adam Ashley-Cooper and James Horwill, on either side of halftime to forge into a 17-7 lead but were unable to stay the pace when the All Blacks sent on a raft of substitutes and upped the tempo ten minutes into the second half.
The All Blacks were ten points down after 50 minutes but 16 minutes later they were 11 points up — turning a 7-17 deficit into a 28-17 lead — as they sent Tony Woodcock, Piri Weepu and Dan Carter over the Australians’ goal-line to confirm their No 1 status in world rugby and also become the first team to win the Tri-Nations four times in succession.
With South African referee Jonathan Kaplan playing his part by policing the break-down strictly the two teams were like two nervous boxers probing for openings for much of the first half before the Wallabies applied the old Robbie Deans formula by scoring just before halftime and again just after the re-start.
It seemed Stirling Mortlock’s men might push on to victory from there but it was not to be as the forceful All Black tackling began to take it’s toll and they struggled to match the extra impetus introduced by Graham Henry when he sent on Stephen Donald, Johan Afoa and Keven Mealamu for Ma’a Nonu, Greg Somerville and Andrew Hore in the 51st minute and also Piri Weepu for Jimmy Cowan in the 55th.
Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock had found himself out on the left-wing to start the fight-back with a try in the left-hand corner in the 49th minute and the All Blacks went for the jugular as the match moved into the final quarter — Weepu being the last man running after a turnover by Richie McCaw and a breakout by Rodney So’oialo and Dan Carter, who had moved into centre when Donald came on, showing his sublime footballing skills to dodge passed Ryan Cross, Mortlock, and Ashley Mortlock on his way over the goal line.
They try put the cherry on top for Carter in a test in which he passed the 300-point mark in Tri-Nations rugby and put the All Blacks in an almost unassailable position.
The Wallabies showed great fighting spirit to construct a try for Cross but they were beaten by the clock as the All Blacks defended furiously before a telling turnover, summing up the match, allowed Weepu to kick the ball off the park to seal the victory.
Australia (10) 24: Tries by Adam Ashley-Cooper (40 min), James Horwill (44 min), Ryan Cross (77 min). Matt Giteau kicked three conversions and a penalty.
New Zealand (7) 28: Tries by Mils Muliaina (13 min), Tony Woodcock (49 min), Piri Weepu (61 min), Dan Carter (66 min). Carter kicked four conversions.Tweet