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Sublime All Blacks secure entertaining win

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Sportal.co.nz     19 Oct 2013     Getty Images

There were a number of players to thank, but none were more influential points-scoring wise than Aaron Cruden. The playmaker capitalised on most of his opportunities and subsequently had 20 first half points as the hosts helped themselves to three first-half tries and a 30-19 half-time lead.

Australia, as they have done throughout their history, came back. They reduced the deficit to one point after 25 minutes and to within seven points by the 47th minute. Quade Cooper played a starring role with 16 points, while centre Tevita Kuridrani was also in the thick of the action as they scored at a point a minute to start the second half.

But New Zealand's class shone through and they illustrated why they hold the Rugby World Cup, Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup concurrently. With only four handling errors in the match in comparison to Australia's 11, it's easy to see why coach Steve Hansen admitted his side held the advantage in the buildup to this clash.

Neither side illustrated a sense of dominance at the breakdown until the 35th minute, when a New Zealand scrum forced Australia to buckle, concede a penalty and leave them feeling wounded. It would prove to be one of the only times that New Zealand would get an edge over their opponents at set piece time, but it illustrated their ability to capitalise when they needed to most.

Australia went into the match looking for their first win in 12 years. Ironically that took place in Dunedin at Carisbrook, the last time a Bledisloe Cup match was played in the city.

Cruden's first penalty attempt was awfully awry, but he regained his composure and otherwise had a successful evening with the kicking tee. He finished with three conversions, four penalties and the All Blacks' third try in a satisfying 60-minute performance.

Cooper was in the thick of it early as ill discipline kept Australia to within a point after 25 minutes. Their spirit, awoken thanks to a 54-17 hammering of Argentina a fortnight ago, was visible.

Then the slick All Blacks attack awoke. Much had been made in the build-up of their ability to capitalise on the moment, to play what was in front of them.

They did considerably more, though. The evolution of the All Blacks attack saw them out-think their opponents on a number of occasions, with each resulting in tries that would make the highlights reel.

Keven Mealamu, who turns 35 in March, illustrated age is no barrier for performing on the elite stage as so many others proved before him.

Wing Charles Piutau's defensive output was sublime. With at least three crucial tackles in the first half and another big defensive tackle 15 metres from his own line after 61 minutes reiterated coach Steve Hansen's decision to select the Auckland utility for his maiden start.

After a testing opening five minutes or so it was New Zealand who were staring at an early 0-3 deficit. Not long after, however, was the first sign of their attacking capabilities.

Wing Julian Savea's 16th try in 18 matches was a simple piece of rugby. The ball was taken into contact quickly before Israel Dagg played the role of provider to perfection.

While the first try was beautifully simple, the second was simply beautiful. A pin-point cross-field kick from Aaron Cruden found Savea in space. The left wing found Dagg, who once more had the final pass of the move. This time the ball found Cane, who dotted down for his sixth try.

But the All Blacks weren't done there. Their third try, to Cruden, illustrated his side's ability to capitalise on the situation in front of them. A simple numbers game provided Liam Messam an opportunity to cut inside and put Cruden in beside the posts.

Australia responded almost immediately through Adam Ashley-Cooper that was down to Cooper's brilliance with the long pass. His 26th try for Australia ensured the visitors cut the deficit to 11 as the half-time hooter run at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Second five-eighths Matt Toomua helped Australia to a perfect start in the second half when he received a pass from centre Tevita Kuridrani, who had intercepted a questionable pass thrown by Julian Savea.

Cooper's conversion brought the match back to within a converted try and with 30 minutes still to play the match looked like it would result in a close finish.

Enter stand-in Kieran Read. The man who replaced Richie McCaw mid-week led by the front and was rewarded with his 13th try in 58 matches.

Kuridrani's try saw New Zealand's lead reduced to eight but with less than four minutes later it was merely a consolation one.

New Zealand 41 (Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea, Kieran Read tries; Cruden 3 con, 4 pen, Beauden Barrett pen) Australia 33 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Quade Cooper 3 con, 3 pen, dg) HT: 30-19