New Zealand beats Australia 29-9 to keep Bledisloe Cup
Winger Israel Dagg scored two tries as New Zealand beat Australia 29-9 in a Rugby Championship test on Saturday which also extended their 13-year hold on the Bledisloe Cup.
Dagg, who moved from fullback to wing after New Zealand's 42-8 win in last weekend's first test, scored twice in the first half as the All Blacks again made clear their overwhelming superiority over a ragged Wallabies lineup.
The win ensured New Zealand retains the Bledisoe Cup with a match remaining in the three-match series, contested annually within the four-nation Rugby Championship. The All Blacks also extended to 19 tests their winning record over Australia in New Zealand and to 42 tests their record of home wins against all nations.
Australia came out fired up and determined to atone for the humiliating loss in Sydney, which was their fifth-straight test defeat and their heaviest at home in decades. But they expressed that determination through unprofitable aggression, losing Adam Coleman to a yellow card in the first half for a late shoulder charge on All Blacks fullback Ben Smith.
The All Blacks sought to play the attacking rugby which is their hallmark and the Wallabies tried only to stifle that game without making any of the play themselves. They were limited again by poor set pieces: their lineout was disorganized and their scrum was weak.
New Zealand went to halftime leading 15-9 - by two tries to nil - but Australia had mostly been kept in the match by refereeing decisions going their way. The All Blacks were twice penalized for collapsing scrums when it appeared clear that the Wallabies, under severe pressure, brought down the scrums on both occasions.
The Wallabies often resorted to cynical play off the ball. Coleman was the worst offender but backrowers Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper were also culprits.
The approach reflected the beligerent nature of Australia coach Michael Cheika who, after an almost record losing streak since last year's World Cup final, finds himself under increasing pressure to save his job.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said retaining the Bledisloe Cup was "an accomplishment we set out to do right from the start and to be able to do that was very pleasing.
"They threw everything at us as we knew they would and there was a bit of niggle. We just had to make sure we didn't get caught up in it and kept our frustration tolerance high."
Incapable of breaking the All Blacks' defensive line, the Wallabies resorted to penalties as their only means of scoring points. Bernard Foley, moved from flyhalf to inside center, kicked two before Reece Hodge, who made his test debut as a 16th-minute replacement for the injured Adam Ashley-Cooper, kicked another from halfway.
Australia resorted to Quade Cooper at flyhalf, moving Foley, as it coped with the loss of Matt Giteau to injury. But Cooper produced another fragile and fearful performance which impacted more widely on the Australian backline.
Their best weapon was the high kick, competed for by fullback Israel Folau, but with a stuttering set piece they had few opportunities.
New Zealand also had a new-look backline, dictated by injuries. But Anton Lienert-Brown, making his debut at inside center, had a much more influential role than his Australian counterparts.
He played a role in both of Dagg's first half tries, making a break and throwing the pass that led to the first and handling decisively in the second. But flyhalf Beauden Barrett remained the brilliant engineer of the All Blacks' backline play, breaking the line for Dagg's first try and making the long pass on the run which, quickly relayed by Ben Smith, made Julian Savea's try early in the second half.
The All Blacks monopolized possession in the second half which put the Wallabies defense under constant strain. They played with more patience and precision than in the first half when they often tried to go wide too soon - recalling the ease of their six tries to one win in last weekend's test.
After Savea's try early in the second half gave them breathing space, they built patiently to create a further try for flanker Sam Cane from a half break by Smith in the 62nd minute. The All Blacks' ability to pass in contact continually stretched Australia's defense and the visitors were barely hanging on as the match entered the final quarter, forced to exhaust its bench.
Australia's many problems started at the set piece and they now face a decision over whether they can continue with hooker and captain Stephen Moore, whose lineout throwing is a weakness. Problems throughout the backline will be more difficult to address.
"Our effort was better this week than last week so I'm proud of that," Moore said. "Well done to New Zealand. They played well across the two games so they deserve it.
"We're going through a difficult period so we have to stick tight and we have done that this week and we'll continue to do that."
New Zealand now tops the Rugby Championship with two bonus point wins, ahead of South Africa who play Argentina later Saturday.
New Zealand 29 (Israel Dagg 2, Julian Savea, Sam Cane tries; Beauden Barrett 3 conversions, penalty), Australia 9 (Bernard Foley 2 penalties; Reece Hodge penalty). HT: 15-9.