All Blacks too strong for Wallabies again
A blistering first-half and a point-scoring spree by Aaron Cruden were instrumental in the All Blacks' 41-33 win as they completed a 3-0 series clean sweep of the Wallabies Dunedin tonight.
First five-eighth Cruden claimed 23 points - 20 in the first half - before being replaced by Beauden Barrett at the 60-minute mark as 28,973 fans were treated to a fixture overflowing with movement and attacking endeavour at the enclosed Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Earlier in the week All Blacks coach Steve Hansen challenged his men to surpass the magnificent performance against the Springboks at Ellis Park a fortnight earlier but he didn't get that result in Dunedin.
This match wasn't stacked with the sort of tension that was generated by that winner-takes-all test in Jo'burg.
It was much looser, contained more errors and although it was certainly entertaining - and both teams can take a bow for their attacking attitude - it just lacked the tension of that cracker against the Boks.
The Wallabies did all they could but their scrum often creaked too much, they struggled to receive much traction with referee Craig Joubert at times and centre Tevita Kuridrani provided he has the ability to make an impact at this level.
Once again their playmaker Quade Cooper was given the razz by the New Zealand crowd but he didn't let that upset him as he produced one of his more complete performances against his old countrymen.
Halfback Will Genia proved once again why he is ranked the world's best No 9 but, eventually, the All Blacks proved their class.
The Aussie tactics were spot-on; when they tried short kick-offs (yet not as much as they should have) former ARL exponents Israel Folau was of value in this area, won a scrum penalty in the first half on an opposition feed and looked for space out wide. Yet it was it was all to no avail.
The All Blacks nabbed two tries inside the opening 30 minutes and fullback Israel Dagg, who has been something for a slow burner for the red-hot New Zealanders this season, had a hot hand in both.
Julian Savea grabbed the opening five-pointer as the All Blacks won a lineout and went on a search and destroy mission down the shortside.
The defence down the left-hand side was a problem for the Wallabies and Dagg, flying in from the deep, spied a mis-match and sped into space before flipping the ball to left wing Savea.
Flanker Sam Cane - one of the blokes called in at late notice because of an injury to regular skipper Richie McCaw - was rewarded the next try but the high-fives should have been directed towards Cruden and Dagg.
It was Cruden's wonderful cross-kick that landed in Savea's bread basket and it was Dagg who plonked the whipped cream on the cake when he burst through the attempted tackles of Folau and left wing Peter Betham before feeding Cane.
First five-eighth Cruden is under pressure for his position as Dan Carter's deputy by Barrett and won't be in a hurry to watch his opening penalty attempt in a hurry.
The ball flew like a heavy medicine ball as it fell about 20m short of the sticks but Cruden shrugged-off that shocker by nailing his next six attempts and completed a spectacular counter-attack as the All Blacks collected their third try late in the first spell.
At least 10 sets of hands handled the ball in this movement - Cruden handled twice - as once again the New Zealanders proved they have the ability to employ anyone from any position when on attack.
The Wallabies, however, are a spirited bunch.
They refused to allow the All Blacks any leeway and just as their chances appeared to have completely unravelled they counter-punched with a try to Adam Ashley-Cooper following an earlier burst by Matt To'omua.
That reduced the All Blacks' halftime lead to 30-19 and that was whittled back to 33-26 when a Julian Savea pass was intercepted by Kuridrani and To'omua finished off the 60m movement.
The Aussies will take some heart from outscoring the All Blacks two tries (To'omua and Kuridrani) to one (Kieran Read) in the second spell but the problem was the damage had already been inflicted in the first 40 minutes.
All Blacks 41 (Julian Savea, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Kieran Read tries; Aaron Cruden 3 cons, 4 pens, Beuden Barrett pen) Wallabies 33 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt To'omua, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Quade Cooper 3 cons, 3 pens, drop goal). HT: 30-19