Sportal.co.nz 25.Aug.2012Getty Images
It wasn't the complete All Blacks performance but it was again infinitely superior to an Australian team playing without confidence, or style, and winless, still, at Eden Park since 1986. If there was a concern for New Zealand it would have been its failure to score more than one try.
McCaw demonstrated the benefit of his experience in a display which constantly harried the Australians, and never more than when he was running the ball up through the midfield.
New Zealand ruled the advantage line, and the air where fullback Israel Dagg reigned supreme with a display that wouldn't have been out of place in Australian Rules. In the end it became pointless kicking to him so complete was his dominance.
Determined Australian defence resulted in two close scoring chances being denied in the first half when Dagg was prevented from getting across the line on each occasion and it was only three Dan Carter penalty goals, in the 17th, 28th and 38th minutes, and another two minutes into the second that were New Zealand's reward.
The second came after Australian halfback and captain Will Genia was sin-binned for deliberately playing the ball in the ground after making a tackle.
Handling and poorly-timed passes disrupted the initial New Zealand effort, but at all times they maintained control and composure.
That became apparent when a superb piece of sustained application early in the second half demonstrated the confidence with which the All Blacks were playing. They owned the advantage line every time they touched the ball.
McCaw and Sonny Bill Williams were each prominent in pushing forward and with halfback Aaron Smith igniting the play, it was more quick ball which provided the first try of the game, to fullback Israel Dagg after 44 minutes.
Smith also demonstrated growing confidence with a searing run through the midfield which almost created another scoring chance.
New Zealand's lineout provided better ball, and even ripped some away from Australia. No.8 Kieran Read was again instrumental in driving ball over the advantage line and was able to disrupt the Australian mauling attempts by securing the ball. McCaw several times showed verve on the flanks and running the ball back infield in backline forays.
Flanker Liam Messam also found the first half sufficiently loose to be able to feature in several of his trademark barging runs. Lock Luke Romano was prominent in support play around the field.
Australia had fewer chances but they still made basic mistakes – twice kicking restarts out on the full and on one occasion attempting a short 22m restart only to have the recipient of the kick in front. The Australians lost wing Drew Mitchell after 35 minutes and he was replaced by Kurtley Beale who moved to fullback with Adam Ashley-Cooper moving to the wing.
First five-eighths Quade Cooper was always going to be the centre of attention whenever he got the ball and so it proved. He did inject thrust into the backline but generally the outside defences of the New Zealanders proved strong and on the occasions the ball was kicked for position, generally by second five-eighths Berrick Barnes, it was well covered by the back three. Left wing Hosea Gear especially welcomed the chance to run with some bruising breakouts.
Australia had one sustained assault at the New Zealand line around the 50 minute mark when opting to eschew penalty goal chances to keep the ball in play but twice the All Blacks' defence proved sound. It was a tough night for new flanker Michael Hooper who struck the All Black captain in all his pomp.
The threat of the Australian playmakers, Genia, Cooper, Ioane and Beale was well contained and they were unable to find the thread to weave any magic.
New Zealand 22 (Israel Dagg try; Dan Carter con, 5 pen) Australia 0. HT: 9-0