Wallabies beat All Blacks to take Tri-Nations crown
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Australia have beaten the All Blacks 25-20 to claim their first Tri-Nations crown in 10 years, boosting the Wallabies' hopes of a third World Cup success in New Zealand next month.
AP - Australia held off New Zealand 25-20 Saturday to claim the Tri-Nations title for the first time in a decade in a confidence-boosting victory two weeks from the World Cup.
For the All Blacks, though, a second away loss in consecutive weeks compounds the already immense pressure on them to win a World Cup on home soil.
The Wallabies led 20-3 at halftime after Will Genia and ageless No. 8 Radike Samo crossed for contrasting tries in the 13th and 34th minutes.
New Zealand rallied with 17 unanswered points via tries to Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu to level it at 20-all on the hour before Australia fullback Kurtley Beale crossed out wide a minute later for the deciding try.
Quade Cooper missed the sideline conversion and another penalty in the 72nd minute, allowing New Zealand to stay in contention and keep tension high in the crowd of 51,858, but the Australians held on for their first win over the All Blacks in Brisbane since 1992 and claim their first Tri-Nations title since 2001.
The All Blacks roughed up Australia in the series-opening match at Auckland last month, racing to a 17-point lead before winning 30-14.
The first half in Brisbane was the complete opposite.
Cooper opened the scoring with a penalty and scrumhalf Genia darted over from the back of the ruck five meters out, throwing a dummy to sneak between two All Blacks frontrowers after sustained Australian pressure in the attacking quarter.
Samo, the 35-year-old backrower making his first test starting appearance since 2004, palmed off one defender and sprinted 60 meters, outpacing Cory Jane and Mils Muliaina, on a stunning solo run to the line and Cooper converted to make it 20-3 at the break.
The New Zealanders lost backrowers Kieran Read (left ankle) and Adam Thomson (left shoulder) with injuries in the first half, diminishing their effectiveness at the breakdown and pace around the field.
The Australians were aggressive in attack and defense but the All Blacks wasted scoring opportunities with some some poor handling, bad options or out-of-the-line defending by the Australian outside backs.
But the New Zealanders took advantage of more possession in the second half, with Carter landing his second penalty of the match in the 47th minute to start the scoring run.
After hanging on for 27 phases, New Zealand spread the ball and Carter drew in two defenders before unloading to Conrad Smith, who ran into a yawning gap and touched down under the posts.
The New Zealanders equalized in the 59th minute when Ma’a Nonu stepped twice off his left foot on an angled run for the posts and Carter calmly slotted the conversion from in front to make it 20-20.
Just when it looked like the momentum had swung New Zealand’s way, the Australians hit back when Genia cut through the defense near the ruck with a sniping run and unloaded to Digby Ioane, who passed it on for fullback Beale to score untouched in the left corner.
New Zealand had a stranglehold on the trophy before a second-string squad lost 18-5 in South Africa last week, letting the Australians back into the Tri-Nations.
Now the All Blacks go into the World Cup opener against Tonga on Sept. 9 on the back of consecutive losses to two-time champion Australia and defending World Cup champion South Africa.