All Blacks take Tri Nations title in Auckland

A hat-trick of tries from Doug Howlett paved the way for New Zealand to rise above South Africa and win the 2005 Tri Nations – but it was a scrappy contest in Auckland.

The All Blacks raced into a 20-0 lead before half-time only for the Wallabies to fightback to within a point after an impressive second-half recovery. But Auckland wing Howlett’s third try finished them off and, aided by an impressive kicking display by substitute Luke McAlister, the All Blacks were home and dry.

New Zealand appeared to be cruising but Australia were not about to give up. George Gregan, winning a world record-equalling 114th cap, looked in fine fettle as he fed Matt Gerrard. He took out Piri Weepu before supplying lock forward Mark Chisholm for his fourth Test try.

Mat Rogers missed the conversion but Australia were beginning to build some momentum. Chisholm then won a long line-out, setting up Rogers to supply Gerrard, whose straight running through the backline saw him crash over. And three minutes later, a MacDonald kick was charged down and Lote Tuqiri scored to help peg the lead back to a point at 20-19.

A clash of heads with Aaron Mauger forced Australia’s South African-born back Clyde Rathbone out of the action and moments later his replacement, Lloyd Johansson, made a dream debut with a try.

The youngster finished off a sharp passing move involving half-backs Gregan and Rogers, plus loose-forward Smith.

The match was settled in the All Blacks’ favour eight minutes from time.

NEW ZEALAND: Muliana; Howlett, Umaga, Mauger, Rokocoko; MacDonald (McAlister 56), Weepu; S0’oialo, McCaw, Lauaki, Williams, Jack (Ryan 62), Hayman, Mealamu, Woodcock. ,

AUSTRALIA: Mitchell; Gerrard, Rathbone, Turinui (Johansson 67), Tuquiri; Rogers, Gregan; Smith, Waugh, Elsom (Roe 67), Sharpe, Chisholm, Baxter Dunning 49), Cannon, Young.

Referee: C White (England)

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