SYDNEY — New Zealand landed an early blow in the battle for the inaugural Rugby Championship when it beat Australia 27-19 Saturday to maintain its iron grip on the Bledisloe Cup.
The World Cup holder raced into an 18-3 lead in the opening game of the newly expanded tournament, which now includes Argentina, through tries by Israel Dagg and Cory Jane before veteran lock Nathan Sharpe crossed just before halftime for the Wallabies’ only try.
Berrick Barnes’ kicking hauled Australia to within five points to leave New Zealand facing an uncomfortable final few minutes but Dan Carter’s fifth successful penalty ensured that the All Blacks take pole position ahead of next weekend’s return fixture in Auckland.
Defending Southern Hemisphere champion Australia troubled its trans-Tasman rivals when they had the ball in hand but a raft of missed tackles and a couple of knock-ons at key moments effectively handed the win to the All Blacks.
Carter kicked 17 points but the biggest difference between the sides in a stop-start match at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium was the speed of the ball won by the New Zealand forwards - and the mistakes made by the Wallabies as the black shirts came at them.
SA beats Argentina
South Africa beat Argentina 27-6 to send the Pumas to defeat on their debut in the Southern Hemisphere championship. —Agencies