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All Blacks make emphatic start

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Sportal.co.nz     17 Aug 2013     Getty Images

Cruden scored a try, landed three conversions and three penalty goals as New Zealand extinguished the threat of Ewen McKenzie's fired-up Australians with an emphatic win. Wing Ben Smith completed a hat-trick of tries in what was the third highest victory over the Australians.

The bad news for Australia was the rustiness in the All Blacks' performance that ensures no let-up in pressure ahead of the return Test in Wellington next weekend.

Backing up Cruden and Smith's displays was a highly encouraging effort by Steven Luatua off the blindside of the scrum which belied his late call-up after injury to Liam Messam. While there was the sight of skipper Richie McCaw in the thick of the action until late in the game.

It did take around 50 minutes to quell the Australian effort but it became one-way traffic through the last 30 minutes, the period when Australia wanted to be putting the pressure on the visitors.

Wing Julian Savea had a quiet first 45 minutes but a superb run carried the All Blacks forward and then a fine chase of a kick provided a boost in lead-up play which saw flanker Steven Luatua burst onto the blindside for halfback Aaron Smith to break and find centre Conrad Smith in support for him to score beneath the posts.

Luatua was in the action again off the side of an Australian fed scrum to secure loose ball and from the ruck the forwards drove ahead and when released the ball was moved across the goalmouth and it was Ben Smith who scored his second.

Smith's third came after defensive pressure in a ruck saw the ball dribble out the side and Smith was onto it in a flash to clear out from Genia to score.

The first half was marred by penalties conceded at the breakdown by New Zealand and a dominant showing in the loose by flanker Michael Hooper. Scrummaging infringements initially came from the failure of both halfbacks, Smith for New Zealand and Will Genia for Australia, to feed the ball straight to scrums.

New Zealand also had concern with their lineouts, a situation not helped by the early departure with a groin injury of lock Luke Romano.

Australia had gained the lead for the first time in the 27th minute when second five-eighths Christian Lealiifano kicked his fourth penalty goal.

But one minute later the man Australia had trumpeted they were targeting, first five-eighths Aaron Cruden, charged down an attempted clearing kick from Lealiifano and controlled the ball to score.

Then more up tempo play from the All Blacks saw the ball moved with confidence with Aaron Smith running angles that had the Australians guessing to clear the ball quickly for returning captain and flanker Richie McCaw crossed in the corner.

That took the All Blacks to 22-12 but three minutes from half-time their failure to control a lineout ball saw the livewire and highly impressive Hooper secure the messy ball to feed Genia who headed off downfield beating Cruden, fullback Israel Dagg and Aaron Smith before scoring.

The All Blacks mounted a final assault and they gained a penalty just after the half-time hooter which allowed Cruden to land the goal.

The All Blacks could not have made a better start. They secured a turnover and worked the ball to the right flank where Cruden chipped ahead, regained and was forced out close to the corner.

Flanker Steven Luatua secured the lineout and the All Blacks drove at the line. The ball was held and after two or three dips at the line it was released and Aaron Smith and Cruden moved the ball around quickly and it was a superb backhand pass from Cruden that created space for Ben Smith to get across.

Cruden got a boost after goal-kicking concerns and landed a fine conversion from wide out.

During the middle stages of the half the game became something of a penalty fest with Lealiifano landing three penalty goals and Cruden one.

Australia scored a consolation try on the final hooter when James O'Connor scored.


Scorers:

Australia 29 (Will Genia, James O'Connor tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 con, 5 pen ) New Zealand 47 (Ben Smith 3, Aaron Cruden, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith tries; Cruden 3 con, 3 pen; Beauden Barrett con). HT: 19-25