World champion New Zealand beat Australia 27-19 in the opening match of the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship to move within one win of retaining the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th straight series.
Israel Dagg and Cory Jane scored tries for the top-ranked All Blacks at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium last night and fly-halfDan Carter kicked 17 points, including a penalty with the last play to deny the Wallabies a bonus point. Nathan Sharpe got Australia’s only try, while Berrick Barnes booted 14 points.
Argentina made its debut in the annual tournament with a 27-6 loss to South Africa in Cape Town. The Springboks have won all 14 meetings with the Pumas.
As well as kicking off the expanded championship, the Australia-New Zealand game was the first of three Bledisloe Cup Tests between the teams in 2012. The Wallabies last held the trophy in 2002 and this year is the first best-of-three contest since 1998, the series having been played over two or four matches in the time since. The All Blacks will retain the Cup by winning when the teams meet at Auckland’s Eden Park on Aug. 25.
“We’ve got an opportunity to keep it if we prepare well,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a news conference. “If we go home and think we we’ve done the job already then that’s a recipe for disaster.’
In a match featuring a high error rate, the All Blacks’ superior defense denied Australia’s pacy outside backs from having any influence. New Zealand led by eight points at the break and maintained that margin at full time.
“Both teams perhaps were lacking a game under their belt,” said All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. “It’s been a while since we’ve been together and it showed. The intensity was there and it comes down to two or three opportunities.”
Australia, which won the last edition of the Tri-Nations for its first southern hemisphere title since 2001, took a 3-0 lead in the third minute after the All Blacks were penalized for deliberately wheeling the scrum.
New Zealand scored the next 18 points as Carter kicked two penalties and a conversion and fullback Dagg and winger Jane went over for tries 20 minutes apart in opposite corners.
The second try came after fumbles a minute apart by Australia’s Scott Higginbotham and Kurtley Beale, who also missed a tackle to allow Dagg to cross the try line. With halftime approaching, second-rower Sharpe crashed over after the Wallabies recycled the ball following a break by Digby Ioane near the posts and Barnes added the extras to make it 18-10.
Barnes booted two penalties either side of a Carter effort to make it 21-16 with half an hour remaining. The All Blacks playmaker restored his team’s eight-point advantage before the pair traded another set of penalties.
Carter’s successful kick after the full-time siren, which came after No. 8 Kieran Read had effected New Zealand’s 16th turnover, extended his world-record tally of 1,301 Test points and denied Australia a competition bonus point for losing by seven points or fewer.
“To their credit they put us under pressure but it was really the unforced errors that put us in a difficult position,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. “We have to be better, that wouldn’t be too hard I don’t think. We’ll definitely be better next week.”
Zane Kirchner, Marcell Coetzee and Bryan Habana scored tries for South Africa at Newlands stadium, while Morne Steyn kicked 12 points. Juan Martin Hernandez booted two penalties for Argentina.
Steyn opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty, which Hernandez matched 10 minutes later. Kirchner and Coetzee then sandwiched converted tries around another Styne penalty, before Hernandez pulled the Pumas within 20-6 at halftime.
South Africa then scored the only points of the second half in the 57th minute as Habana touched down, with Steyn converting.
The teams meet again in the second round of games Aug. 25 in Mendoza, Argentina.
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