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Saturday, 13 July, 2002, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
All Blacks win Tri-Nations opener
Australia's George Smith drives the ball forward in appalling conditions as he is tackled by All Black Chris Jack
The first half was a bruising affair in poor conditions
New Zealand 12-6 Australia

New Zealand have one hand on the Bledisloe Cup after edging out fierce rivals Australia in a scrappy Tri-Nations opener.

Andrew Mehrtens was the man of the match, kicking all of the All Blacks' points in front of a buoyant Christchurch crowd.

But the home team were made to hang on at the end after being reduced to 14 men by the referee's decision to yellow card Mark Robinson for a tackle without the ball.

Matthew Burke and Chris Cullen collide during the Christchurch match between Australia and New Zealand
Burke (top) and Cullen collide in Christchurch

Australia's Matt Burke missed two key kicks as the visitors fell just short on a damp day, dominated by the boot.

The first half was a scrappy affair, riddled with uncharacteristic handling errors as both teams tried and failed to assert their class.

The coaches sensibly resorted to kicking games after the break and Mehrtens turned match winner.

He traded positional kicks with opposite number Stephen Larkham as the talented back lines were bypassed.

And the Kiwi fly-half displayed unerring accuracy under great pressure to convert each of his four penalty attempts.

His All Blacks blew a good chance to extend their 12-6 lead in the 68th minute when they were awarded a line-out close to the Wallaby line.

  Match scoring
New Zealand - 12
Penalties: Mehrtens (4)
Australia - 6
Penalties: Burke (2)

But they were penalized for delaying the throw and missed out again minutes later when a four-man overlap broke down.

It looked like New Zealand might be made to pay for their profligacy in the 74th minute, when Robinson was sin-binned for 10 minutes by South African referee Jonathan Kaplan.

Australia came within a few yards of an improbable last-gasp victory, but a spell of proud Kiwi defence kept them out.


New Zealand: Cullen, Howlett, Robinson, A. Mauger, Ralph, Mehrtens, Marshall, Robertson, McCaw, Thorne, Maling, Jack, Somerville, Hammett, Hewett.
Replacements: T. Willis, McDonnell, R. Willis, Broomhall, Kelleher, Gibson, Blair.

Australia: Latham, Tune, Burke, Herbert, Mortlock, Larkham, Gregan, Kefu, Smith, Finegan, Harrison, Sharpe, Noriega, Paul, Young.
Replacements: Cannon, Darwin, Cockbain, Lyons, Whitaker, Flatley, Rogers.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

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BBC Sport's Graham Moody
"A victory of guts and determination"

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