Sun, Aug 20, 2006 - Page 22 News List

All Blacks clinch Tri-Nations title

SERIES SETTLER The New Zealanders battled past a determined Australian side to seal the Tri-Nations with two games left to play, their seventh title win in 11 years

AFP , AUCKLAND

Joe Rokocoko, right, and Chris Masoe of the All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after the Tri-Nations match between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

The All Blacks came from behind to pull off a 34-27 victory over the Wallabies in a passionate and bruising rugby Test yesterday to clinch the Tri-Nations crown with two matches to spare.

Two tries in three minutes inside the final quarter swung the game the All Blacks' way, and gave them their seventh Tri-Nations title in the 11 years of the championship.

It was an intensely physical encounter, which Australia needed to win to keep the series alive.

While referee Chris White tried to keep a lid on the white-hot cauldron, in the end he ran out of patience two minutes from time and sent Wallaby flanker Phil Waugh to the sin-bin.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was the target of heavy treatment and the blood began pouring from his nose and lip within minutes of the kick off.

He later required treatment following an apparent spear tackle by Lote Tuqiri, but despite repeated replays on the big screen that incensed the partisan New Zealand crowd, no penalty was awarded.

Both sides scored three tries, and the telling difference in the end was the high infringement count against the Wallabies with ace All Blacks kicker Daniel Carter landing five penalties

The All Blacks had ample ball to score more tries, but they were guilty of too many 50-50 passes which failed to find their mark and contributed to a high turnover rate as well as gifting a try to Lote Tuqiri.

Midway through the first half the All Blacks had been building up through several phases when a wayward pass from Jerry Collins landed straight in the arms of Tuqiri who ran 50 meters to the line.

Before a sell out crowd of 47,000, both sides were willing to run the ball from all quarters leading to desperation defense, and it was here the Wallabies proved tough to crack.

The All Blacks clearly missing injured midfield general Aaron Mauger and coach Graham Henry conceded minutes into the second half that pairing rookies Luke McAlister and Isaia Toeava in the center had not worked.

Toeava was substituted by the vastly experienced Leon MacDonald and the mistakes began to disappear from the All Blacks backline.

The All Blacks had been forced to play catch up all through the first half, with Carter replying to two penalties from Stirling Mortlock, and Jason Eaton scoring for the All Blacks after Tuqiri's touch down.

But the Wallabies moved to a decisive 20-11 lead just on halftime when Rocky Elsom was awarded a controversial try after television replays appeared to indicate Toeava had knocked the ball from his hands before it was grounded.

Carter continued to chisel away at the Wallabies in the lead with two penalties narrowing the gap to 17-20, before the tide turned in the 64th minute.

As the heavy defensive work the Wallabies were forced to produce in the first half began to tell, the All Blacks stretched them to breaking point allowing Chris Jack to loom up on the left wing to score.

The big lock took the final pass in a move which saw speedsters McAlister, Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Mils Muliana handle the ball.

Minutes later a crunching tackle by Carter on Stephen Larkham saw the ball spill into the arms of McAlister who scampered 60 meters to the line.

The Wallabies came back with another Tuqiri try converted by Mortlock, but it was left to Carter to put the final points on the board with a penalty when Waugh was sent off for holding back Ali Williams.

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