The All Blacks have made a winning start to their 2012 Rugby Championship campaign with a hard fought 27-19 win over Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney tonight.
The All Blacks outscored the Wallabies two tries to one, and always looked good for the win, but never really hit that top gear that they are capable of.
It was a gritty, error-ridden match with simple handling errors, knock-ons and penalties featuring more prominently than the slick running rugby that the 70,000 crowd was hoping for.
The Wallabies were the main culprits, but despite all their errors, managed to keep in touching distance with the All Blacks and were able to mount a late attack after Berrick Barnes reducing the deficit to five points with four minutes left.
The one area where the All Blacks really stood out was the breakdown, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks poured into every one with such enthusiasm and desire that Australia struggled to find an answer.
The result means the All Blacks can claim the Bledisloe Cup in Auckland next weekend if they can achieve their 14th win in 17 games against the Wallabies.
After opening the scoring in the second minute with a Kurtley Beale penalty the Wallabies lost their way, conceding 18 unanswered points in a scrappy 35 minute period.
The All Blacks scored two tries – Israel Dagg and Corey Jane both using their speed and guile to touch down out wide – but the real damage to the Wallabies was being done by themselves.
A number of fumbles, knock-ons and poor decisions created a growing panic in the Australian backline and 15 penalties after 30 minutes made it a scrappy encounter to watch.
But they found their feet at the end of the half, Nathan Sharpe touching down to bring the home side back into the game, with a much needed burst through a tiring All Blacks defence.
Carter and Barnes both traded two second half penalties, which kept the Wallabies at arms-length, with an eight point buffer separating the sides heading into the final 15 minutes.
And then the All Blacks experience saw them through. They slowed the game down when they needed to, defended like their lives depended on it and grinded out the win in a professional manner.
Barnes pulled the Wallabies within four points with three minutes to go but the All Blacks successfully closed the match out.
New Zealand: Tries: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane; Conversion: Dan Carter; Penalties: Carter (5).
Australia: Try: Nathan Sharpe; Conversion: Berrick Barnes. Penalties: Barnes (4).