DUNEDIN, New Zealand: The All Blacks stayed on course to complete an unbeaten season when they toppled Australia 41-33 in a high-scoring seven-try spectacle in Dunedin yesterday.
The reigning world champions were unruffled by the injury enforced late withdrawals of captain Richie McCaw and wing Cory Jane as they outscored the Wallabies four tries to three.
It was their 10th win from 10 Tests this year, and they also equalled their longest unbeaten streak on home soil -- a 30-match run between 2003 and 2008.
But the game was closer than the scoreline suggested with the All Blacks leading 30-19 at half-time and the Wallabies taking the second half 14-11.
The All Blacks wanted to repeat the high level of their performance two weeks ago when they beat the Springboks in Johannesburg to claim the Rugby Championship but coach Steve Hansen said there were too many errors.
“It wasn’t perfect but we really didn’t expect it to be from where we’ve been and what we’ve done in the last three weeks.
“Maybe we let a couple of soft ones in but at the end of the day it’s a lot better than last year,” Hansen said, referring to the 18-18 draw with Australia in the 2012 third Test in Brisbane.
The Australians started the game buoyed by their recent thrashing of Argentina and enjoyed a possession and territory advantage over the All Blacks in the first half.
But their confidence was eroded by the apparent ease with which the All Blacks turned half chances into scoring opportunities which left Wallaby captain James Horwill “bitterly disappointed” with the result.
“We came here to win. We never like to lose but we’re proud of the effort the guys put in. We were always trying to win the game no matter what the scoreboard was and we went down swinging and that’s the commitment of the group.
It was a rocky start for the All Blacks when Sam Cane, deputising for the injured McCaw, spilled the kick off back into Wallaby hands.
Israel Folau, a star of the Wallabies backline, took the Australians deep into All Blacks territory where Quade Cooper was gifted a simple penalty.
But that was to be the only time the Wallabies were ahead on the scoreboard for although they dominated possession in the first half they found the black defensive wall near impossible to penetrate. As the All Blacks exploited the Wallabies defensive frailties left wing Julian Savea opened their account by scoring off an Israel Dagg pass when the speedsters found hooker Stephen Moore as the last line of defence. Yesterday’s match was the third in the Bledisloe Cup Test series. The All Blacks had won the first two Tests in the three-match series, retaining the Cup, played annually between the two countries, for the 11th consecutive year. AFP