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All Blacks book final spot

New Zealand will face their Rugby World Cup nemesis France in next Sunday's showpiece final after a comprehensive 20-6 victory over Australia at Eden Park.

The All Blacks were beaten by France in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup and in the quarter-finals four years ago, enhancing the view that New Zealand had become chokers on the biggest stage.

They were anything but on Sunday. Ma'a Nonu scored the only try of the game but Australia were barely in the contest, despite the All Blacks missing four penalty shots at goal. Had they all been converted, the final scoreline would not have been flattering.

The tone was set from the kick-off, which Quade Cooper sent straight into touch. The nerves spread through the Australian side and New Zealand pounced.

Israel Dagg outfoxed Anthony Fainga'a, fended off Rocky Elsom and then sent Nonu over for the first try with an outrageous one-handed off-load before Piri Weepu missed with a conversion and a penalty to ensure there was still life in the gold and green jerseys.

David Pocock put in a phenomenal defensive performance but he was penalised twice in quick succession in his own 22 as the All Blacks flooded forward, this time with Aaron Cruden's break past Digby Ioane, and Weepu finally found his range.

Australia needed to gain a foothold or the game was going to run away from them, and it came after Richie McCaw was penalised for not releasing after Jerome Kaino had halted Ioane and James O'Connor booted the Wallabies onto the scoreboard.

Cruden responded with a drop-goal although Cooper did keep his composure to slot his own drop-goal after Australia's forwards had hammered away at the New Zealand line. But Weepu slotted two more penalties either side of the interval to open an 11-point lead, and from there the game ran away from Australia.

Cruden missed with a long-range strike after the Australian scrum was penalised on half-way, but with seven minutes remaining, Weepu took full advantage to slot the kick after phenomenal drive from the All Blacks unit.

Sonny Bill Williams made a brief appearance off the bench before he was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Cooper, but even with 14 men the All Blacks' defence held firm to the death.


From Belfast Telegraph