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Smith scores two more tries as New Zealand beats Aussies

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The Canadian Press
8/24/2013 9:32:59 PM
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Winger Ben Smith kept up his prolific try-scoring record in test matches this season, touching down twice as New Zealand took advantage of lax defence to beat Australia 27-16 in the Rugby Championship and retain the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday.

Smith scored three tries in the All Blacks' 47-29 win over the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend in the competition's opening game and has now scored seven tries in his last four test appearances.

Flyhalf Tom Taylor, who was plunged into test rugby when New Zealand lost three No. 10s to injury, kicked 14 points from a conversion and four penalties in a sound debut while fullback Israel Dagg also kicked a penalty.

Israel Folau scored a late intercept try for Australia, beating Dagg with a giant sidestep, while Christian Leali'ifano converted and added three penalties.

The Australians competed strongly in the first 25 minutes, securing a small majority of possession and placing the All Blacks under searching pressure. But they failed to take advantage of a handful of opportunities, were rebuffed by a solid New Zealand defence then conceded two tries to Smith in the last 13 minutes of the first half to trail 15-6 at halftime.

Though they made sporadic breaks, the Australians had no coherence and therefore offered no sustained threat from their attacking game. When they were most strongly on attack, pressing the New Zealand line, they found the All Blacks' defence impenetrable.

The All Blacks, in contrast, were again able to turn even half-chances from Wallabies' turnovers into tries and to walk through gaping holes in Australia's interior defence. Mistiming its rush defence and the timidity of some individual defenders allowed New Zealand to perforate the Australian defensive line on a number of occasions.

"For the first 30 minutes, we were under the pump," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. "We were just beaten to the punch in the contact areas.

"But when we got our opportunities, because momentum does change, we managed to capitalize on it and that's the way you've got to do it in rugby these days. I thought we took good options tonight, our kicking was good and we took our chances."

The All Blacks overpowered the Wallabies at scrums, showing their mastery of new rules of engagement being applied for the first time this season. They were led in that respect by loosehead prop Tony Woodcock, who became the fourth New Zealander to play 100 tests.

Australia were humiliated by the British and Irish Lions' scrum in their three-test series in June but that almost paled in comparison with the scrummaging lesson it received from the All Blacks here.

New Zealand's victory, following its win in Sydney last week, ensured it wins this season's three-match series for the Bledisloe Cup, extending to 11 years its hold on a trophy which is played for annually between the All Blacks and Wallabies. The All Blacks remain unbeaten against Australia at home since 2003 and have won all but three of their last 19 test meetings.

"I said last week we'd only done half the job and to win again this week means we've got the Bledisloe Cup in the cupboard for another year," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"We knew that Australia would come at us and in the first 20 minutes a lot of the moments were going to belong to them if we didn't turn up mentally. We got away to a slow start and they probably owned it a bit. But what I did like was that we absorbed it and came back and started to win our own moments."

Australia hooker Stephen Moore went close to scoring in the sixth minute and Leali'ifano made a telling break in the 24th minute but was hauled down in cover defence by scrumhalf Aaron Smith. Both attacks led to penalties, which Leali'ifano converted to give Australia a 6-0 lead.

At that point, they had the better of the match and they were competing strongly and energetically, if not always effectively, because of the limitations of their attacking game.

The match turned in the 27th minute when New Zealand secured possession from an Australian kick and quickly shifted the ball wide where winger Julian Savea briefly held up the defence and created space from which Smith scored his first try.

Taylor converted and New Zealand took a lead, at 7-6, which they never relinquished.

Outstanding backrower Steven Luatua, who excelled both in defence and attack, made the critical break in the 39th minute from which Smith scored his second and most telling try. Quick hands among the New Zealand backs again created an overlap against a compact defence and Smith slipped down the touchline to score.

New Zealand extended its lead to 24-9 in the 70th minute, with Taylor's fourth penalty and his fifth successful kick from seven attempts.

Folau then gave the scoreline respectability with his third try in tests, swooping on an All Blacks pass and brilliantly beating Dagg in the open field.

"You've just got to take your hat off to New Zealand, they're a very clinical side and they make the most of their possession," Wallabies captain James Horwill said.

"They're very good and unfortunately now we have another year without the Bledisloe Cup, which is very disappointing."

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New Zealand 27 (Ben Smith 2 tries; Tom Taylor conversion, 4 penalties; Israel Dagg penalty), Australia 16 (Israel Folau try; Christian Leali'ifano conversion, 3 penalties). HT: 15-6.

New Zealand celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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