All Blacks edge Eden win
New Zealand survived an early onslaught to beat Australia 22-16 at Eden Park as they began their Tri-Nations defence with a win.
Last Updated: 18/07/09 11:21am
New Zealand survived an early onslaught to defeat Australia 22-16 at Eden Park and begin the defence of their Tri-Nations title with a win.
The wallabies made a flying start to the opening Tri-Nations fixture with Berrick Barnes scoring a try with only three minutes on the clock.
Matt Giteau converted and kicked a penalty for 10-0 and the rampant Wallabies missed a couple more chances to cross the line soon after.
New Zealand hung on and returning skipper Richie McCaw scored their only try of the game on 25 minutes as the hosts went in 13-10 behind at half time.
Stephen Donald was then the hero for the All Blacks as he kicked five penalties, while Giteau kicked three but crucially missed two other chances as New Zealand emerged victorious.
New Zealand made it 20 international victories in a row at Eden Park and move on to South Africa for two matches against the world champions, the first next Saturday in Bloemfontein.
Twelve months ago McCaw, who remains unbeaten on home soil as captain, returned from a six-week injury lay-off to inspire the All Blacks to a 39-10 victory against the Wallabies at Eden Park just a week after a heavy defeat in Sydney.
And once again he produced another strong performance to galvanise a side that had stuttered their way to a drawn series with France and win against Italy.
The Australians have not won at the Auckland venue since 1986 but hopes of changing that were high when they raced to a 10-0 lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Firstly, Barnes ghosted past some indifferent All Blacks defence to touch down after four minutes and Matt Giteau's conversion and a penalty gave them a handy lead.
Stephen Donald then missed his first shot at goal but made no mistake with his second attempt a minute later when Benn Robinson was marched 10 metres for throwing the ball away to put the penalty within kicking distance.
Australia should have gone further ahead when Donald's grubber kick deep in his own half came back off the legs of Giteau, who popped the ball up to Barnes only for his pass to hit George Smith and go forward with the line begging.
Giteau hit the upright with his second penalty attempt before going over to put the visitors 13-3 ahead, but the All Blacks got themselves right back in the game though with a try to their skipper.
After struggling at lineout time they opted to throw to Rodney So'oialo at the front who took it comfortably, and that led to Conrad Smith gathering the ball and setting McCaw away.
Donald's conversion reduced the deficit to 13-10 and the score remained that way to half-time after he and Giteau both missed a penalty attempt each.
Fly-half Donald took charge in the second half as he kicked four penalties to Giteau's one to ensure the Wallabies' 23-year, 11-match losing streak at Eden Park continued.