BEN SMITH INCREASED his tally of tries to seven in four games as New Zealand defeated Australia 27-16 to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
The Highlanders winger, who crossed for a hat-trick of tries against the same opponents last week, dived over for a score in the first half.
New Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie tasted defeat for the second game running as he witnessed the brutality, and occasional cruelty, of taking on the rugby machines in black. Australia made all the running in the opening quarter and should have been further ahead than 6-0.
New Zealand, with players pushing their sin-bin luck on a regular basis, were slapped to their senses and responded with a fine Smith score.
The winger added a second on 39 minutes, following slick backline passing, and debutant outhalf Tom Taylor added a conversion and penalties to stretch the lead, leaving it 15-6 at the break. Christian Leali’ifano knocked over his third penalty of the game to make it a six-point game but Taylor tipped the balance in the home side’s favour with two more of his own.
At 24-9, the Wallabies responded with a superb individual score from Israel Folau but a late Israel Dagg penalty settled the contest.
“We were under the pump there for a while,” admitted All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. “Our last couple of weeks was by no means perfect but it was a good start.”
117-times capped McCaw welcomed prop Tony Woodcock into the 100-cap club and paid tribute to his international stable-mate. The captain said, “When you play alongside someone for 11 plus years, you know what makes him tick and what makes him so special. During the week you train hard, on Saturday you play hard and, after that, you have some fun with your mates.