Sunday 17 December 2017

Weepu adds to Wallabies' woes

Australia 22

New Zealand 23

Two converted tries in the final 13 minutes saw New Zealand complete their perfect Tri Nations campaign with a thrilling victory over Australia at ANZ Stadium.

The Wallabies led by eight points at the break and looked on track to end their nine-match losing run against the Kiwis, but Robbie Deans' men were unable to hold off the fast-finishing visitors.

Converted tries from skipper Richie McCaw (67th minute) and Kieran Read (73rd) proved the difference as the New Zealanders sealed a record 10th straight triumph over Australia.

The Wallabies had their chances in the dying moments with a penalty, but were unable to pull the game out of the fire.

Goal-kicking proved crucial in the end with Matt Giteau kicking three from seven while Piri Weepu landed a perfect five from five.

It was a fitting end to McCaw's record 52nd Test as skipper, as the 29-year-old moved past Sean Fitzpatrick's record for most matches at the helm in All Blacks history.

New Zealand took the lead via a Weepu penalty in the third minute but the first genuine attacking opportunity fell to the hosts on six minutes. It was very nearly a dream return for Lachie Turner, who looked to have scored out wide only to be denied by a Corey Jane tackle.

Giteau levelled things with a penalty moments later, but the hosts soon found themselves on the back foot as Ma'a Nonu and Mils Muliaina both came close to crossing the line.

The All Blacks had to settle for a Weepu penalty in the 12th minute after Kurtley Beale and Turner both produced try-saving tackles. And the Wallabies made the most of both let-offs when number eight Ben McCalman caught the All Blacks napping down the short side.

McCalman showed good pace to beat Victor Vito and Read before linking with James O'Connor, who scorched over in the corner to give the hosts an 8-6 lead in the 16th minute. Giteau failed to capitalise on a high tackle from Nonu on Beale in the 24th minute, missing his sideline penalty attempt. But he made amends in the 33rd and 40th minutes to send his side into the interval leading 14-6.

Soon after the resumption Adam Ashley-Cooper crashed through three defenders for his fifth career try against the All Blacks and gave his side a 19-6 advantage. Weepu and Beale then traded penalties as the hosts maintained their 13-point buffer with 20 minutes to play.

McCaw scored from the scrum base in the 67th minute and Weepu added the extras to pull the visitors back to within six points. Read then crashed over with seven minutes remaining and again Weepu held his nerve to convert.

Scorers -- Australia: J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper tries; M Giteau 3 pens, K Beale 1 pen. New Zealand: R McCaw, K Read tries; Weepu 2 cons, 3 pens

Australia: Beale; O'Connor, Ashley-Cooper (Faingaa), Giteau, Turner; Cooper (Barnes), Genia (Burgess); Robinson, Moore, Ma'afu (Slipper 52), Chisholm (Mumm 55), Sharpe, Elsom, Pocock, McCalman

New Zealand: Muliaina; Jane, Smith, Nonu, Dagg; Cruden (Slade 60), Weepu; Woodcock, Mealamu (Flynn 12), Franks (Afoa 60), Thorn, Donnelly (Boric 60), Vito, McCaw, Read

Referee: M Lawrence (South Africa)

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