AUCKLAND — An intensive defensive effort by the All Blacks created a 30-14 win over Australia in their Tri-Nations clash Saturday, giving their self-belief a boost in the countdown to the World Cup.
It was a far from perfect performance by the All Blacks who allowed the Wallabies an advantage with possession.
But while Australian attacks were swiftly shut down for most of the match the All Blacks, with Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu and Dan Carter to the fore, were able to find holes around the Australian ruck and out wide.
The three tries to two victory in the clash of the world's top two sides ensured the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman superiority, which they have held since 2003.
It also left them on track for an 11th Tri-Nations title in the 16-year history of the competition and gave an insight into the game they are working on for the World Cup which starts here next month.
"I thought the defence was outstanding," said All Blacks coach Graham Henry while playing down any psychological edge it could give them going into the World Cup.
"I think there's far too many occasions in the past where (a Tri-Nations win) hasn't amounted to a result in the Rugby World Cup so if we get complacent about this victory it will be curtains I'd say"
The Wallabies did finish the stronger of the two sides as the pace of the game told on several All Blacks having their first run since the Super 15 series, but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the damage had been done by then.
"Tactically we didn't help ourselves. We allowed the All Blacks to establish the D (defence) line and really create some linespeed in their defence and stymie our attack. We left a lot of points out there as well. We lacked a bit of patience in the way and where we attacked."
Weepu, getting a start at number nine after coming off the bench in recent Tests, stamped his mark with a series of breaks close to the maul and the All Blacks backs feasted off a supply of front-foot ball.
Other Wallabies youngsters in their first Auckland Tests were also rattled as New Zealand's biggest crowd of the modern era of 55,000 roared at every slip-up in the 22nd straight home win at their bastion.
The All Blacks burst out of the blocks to lead 10-0 after nine minutes and, when it was 17-0 after half an hour, the game was as good as gone.
Australia had their chances, and more possession in the attacking half but, as hard as they probed, just couldn't convert.
The All Blacks' defence under pressure was superb, a cornerstone for the victory, holding out the Wallabies for 14 consecutive phases in their 22 early on to set the tone.
In contrast, the Wallabies couldn't hold out the ruthless Kiwis when they had a sniff near the line.
Centre Ma'a Nonu shrugged off Adam Ashley-Cooper and Rocky Elsom to dive over in the eighth minute to finish a raid sparked by Piri Weepu while, similarly, Keven Mealamu burrowed over shortly after another Weepu blind-side raid.
Australia's attack wasn't predictable or slow but New Zealand's patient, smart and disciplined defence twice forced five-eighth Cooper into low percentage cross-field kicks which never paid off.
Direct rival Dan Carter delivered a five-star performance to underline his standing as the world's best playmaker, starring in attack, defence and slotting six from six with the boot.
Ironically, Australia's pre-match problem area, the scrum, held firm but they paid dearly for the All Blacks' superiority at the restarts.
When Digby Ioane, Australia's best by far, revived some hope with a brilliant counter-attacking try in the 51st minute, it was an immediate hit-back off the kick-off which snuffed out any thought of a comeback.