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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
All Blacks claim Bledisloe Cup

New Zealand 21-17 Australia

Howlett scored two tries in the first half

New Zealand completed the first Tri-Nations clean sweep for five years to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup from Australia in Auckland.

The hosts scored two tries to one and weathered a determined effort in the closing minutes from their trans-Tasman rivals at a rain-swept Eden Park to claim the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1997.

The encounter failed to match the entertainment of the 50-21 win by the All Blacks in Sydney in July as both sides defended gamely and took the option to kick possession away in the wet conditions.

But both sides were guilty of aimless kicks and a series of handling errors in a fiercely contested match in which the forwards dictated play.

Australia took an early lead through an Elton Flatley penalty but the home side hit back almost immediately with a try of real class.

Match facts
New Zealand 21
Tries: Howlett (2)
Cons: Spencer
Spencer (3)
Australia 17
Try: Smith
Pens: Flatley (4)
After retaining the ball for a number of phases, hooker Keven Mealamu, standing in the backline, stepped inside his marker to send winger Doug Howlett over near the posts.

But with Australia dominating possession, and the All Black line-out again struggling, Flatley converted two penalties for Australia to lead 9-7 after 20 minutes.

After a turnover, Carlos Spencer chipped a ball in behind the Wallabies and Howlett showed his pace to outsprint Flatley and cross in the corner to give the All Blacks a 12-9 advantage.

With the All Blacks seeing more and more of the ball, Spencer added a penalty before the hosts kept the ball for 15 phases only for lock Chris Jack to knock-on over the tryline.

Spencer had a chance to stretch the lead heading into the break, but his penalty slide past the posts, his third miss in the first half.

Australia were forced into a raft of replacements, with Alistair Baxter coming on for his first Test cap replacing Glenn Panoho, and they lost Wendell Sailor at the break and Toutai Kefu shortly after the resumption.

Spencer slotted another penalty to extend the lead before Australia battled back with 10 minutes of concerted pressure.

Both Nathan Sharp and Stephen Larkham went close with the video referee declining their try appeals, and the All Blacks managed to defend their line and escaped with conceding only a penalty.

The stout resistance reaped its reward when Spencer kicked his third penalty to restore their nine-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Australia sought to find a way past the black defensive wall in the closing quarter, and their efforts were repeatedly repelled until flanker George Smith went over in the corner with five minutes left.

But despite their best efforts, Australia could not find a way to cross for a match-winning try in the final minutes.

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Tana Umaga, Aaron Mauger, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, Justin Marshall, Jerry Collins, Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Greg Somerville, Keven Mealamu, Dave Hewett.
Replacements: Leon MacDonald, Daniel Carter, Steve Devine, Marty Holah, Brad Thorn, Kees Meeuws, Mark Hammett.

Australia: Chris Latham, Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers, Elton Flatley, Lote Tuqiri, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan (captain), Toutai Kefu, Phil Waugh, George Smith, Daniel Vickerman, David Giffin, Glenn Panoho, Brendan Cannon, Bill Young.
Replacements: Jeremy Paul, Alastair Baxter, Nathan Sharpe, Owen Finegan, Chris Whitaker, Matt Giteau, Matthew Burke.


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