Courageous Sam Cane helps New Zealand to unbeaten run
Flanker Sam Cane's outstanding performance underlined the depth of the All Blacks squad as he helped them finish their domestic test season unbeaten with a 41-33 victory over Australia in their Bledisloe Cup clash in Dunedin yesterday.
The 21-year-old Cane was a late inclusion for Richie McCaw after the inspirational skipper suffered a calf injury at training on Thursday, though it failed to provide any disruption to the world champions' performance.
Cane was earmarked by Hansen last year as McCaw's successor, though he had struggled to stamp his authority on games or indicate he was adjusting to the test level.
But his performances in five tests this season have been widely praised by the All Blacks management.
He provided the impetus for his side in the third and final match against Australia - which was a "dead rubber" after the All Blacks clinched the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy earlier in the year - with his defence, linking play, work at the breakdown and storming runs.
"He is just getting better and better with game time and experience and it's nice to know we have got another one in the cupboard," coach Steve Hansen said of Cane's performance.
It means the All Blacks have now not lost a test at home since 2009, a run of 30 matches. The victory also kept the Wallabies winless against the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
The All Blacks, who have won all 10 of their tests this year, have also now won 29 of their last 31 matches since the beginning of the 2011 World Cup, and despite the closeness of the final score, the home side were too good for the visitors.
They were ruthlessly efficient at turning possession into points, either striking from deep or building phases down field, producing four brilliant tries to Julian Savea, Cane, Aaron Cruden and captain Kieran Read.
"We had to work hard, I think we needed to show a bit of discipline and get our roll on," Read said. "I think when we got down their end we got points and that was the key to it."
Cruden added three conversions and four penalties before he was replaced by Beauden Barrett, who slotted a penalty that capped the home side's scoring.
The Wallabies provided plenty of endeavour and kept playing until well after the final hooter, despite the fact a converted try could not win them the game.
The difference, however, was they were restricted to ticking the scoreboard over in three-point increments, with Quade Cooper slotting three penalties and a drop goal in the first half before winger Adam Ashley-Cooper's try in the 40th minute.
The Wallabies were also unable to match the All Blacks ability to pass out of tackles and put their support players into space, with many of their attacking thrusts snuffed out and the ball turned over.
"We never like to lose but we are proud of the effort the guys put in," Wallabies captain James Horwill said.
"We wanted to make sure that we were always trying to win the game and to keep on swinging no matter what the scoreboard said."