TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia were struggling to paper over the cracks after suffering their seventh straight defeat by New Zealand in their Bledisloe Cup test in Tokyo.
The All Blacks won Saturday’s game 32-19 to complete a 4-0 season whitewash over the Australians and increase the pressure on under-fire Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
In front of a crowd of 44,000 -- many in fancy dress to celebrate Halloween -- Australia lacked the firepower to end their horror run despite leading 16-13 at halftime.
“Can anyone tell me what the penalty count was?” Deans tetchily asked reporters, accusing the All Blacks of negative tactics under a fierce Wallaby assault late in the first period.
“I know of the first six penalties, four were in the red zone. There probably should have been a couple of others when the ball was lifted out of rucks one metre short of the line.”
With Sitiveni Sivivatu sin-binned, a combination of good fortune and desperate defence allowed New Zealand to survive and go into the break just three points down.
“It’s frustrating,” fumed Deans. “Particularly when you play a fixture in Tokyo when we’re trying to promote the game. I don’t think it contributed well to the game today.”
Australian playmaker Matt Giteau also took a swipe at perceived All Blacks spoiling tactics under pressure.
“We got in their 22 a number of times, especially in the first half, and ball was killed when we had the opportunity to play wide,” he said, icing his right hand.
“All we could take was three points rather than seven and I think that had a huge bearing.”
As Deans was left scratching for positives, a first try against the All Blacks since their first Bledisloe Cup game of the year at least brought the hint of a smile.
“I was very pleased,” said the New Zealander. “We threatened a lot more and could so easily have scored more.”
Australia at least showed more intensity and fight than in their 33-6 battering by the All Blacks in their final Tri-Nations match six weeks ago.
“We’re back playing rugby,” insisted Deans, whose team flew to London on Sunday for a Grand Slam tour of Europe. “It’s a good launching pad for us.”
New Zealand coach Graham Henry, who got the nod ahead of Deans for the All Blacks job in 2007, grinned when asked if he felt his “foot was on the throat” of his opposite number.
”That’s a very interesting question,“ said Henry. ”We take all our tests very seriously and there’s a huge amount of pressure in New Zealand to perform -- whether we’re playing Australia or South Africa or Wales or whoever.
“It just happens it’s 4-0 against the Wallabies this year which is pleasing but it’s not a personal thing. It’s a win-loss thing. They guys should be proud of their performance.”