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Saturday August 24, 2013 MYT 10:17:02 PM
Saturday August 24, 2013 MYT 10:17:42 PM
by greg stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had plenty to smile about after his side soaked up a withering Wallabies onslaught before his fourth-string flyhalf underlined the depth he has at his disposal with a 27-16 victory over Australia on Saturday.
The win, in the Rugby Championship and loosehead prop Tony Woodcock's 100th test, ensured the world champions retained the Bledisloe Cup for an 11th successive season.
It also extended the Wallabies' winless streak against the All Blacks in New Zealand to 16 games - a run that stretches back to August 11, 2001, when Australia won 23-15 in Dunedin.
"Australia ... turned up and threw everything at us," Hansen told reporters after the clash at Wellington Regional Stadium. "For long periods of the game they won the moments.
"I was very proud of our team with the way they fought back and in the end got on top.
"Probably not our prettiest test match but we will take that, particularly when we win the big prize of the Cup at the end of it."
The All Blacks had easily won the opening match of the Rugby Championship 47-29 last week in Sydney but entered Saturday's game with flyhalf Tom Taylor making his test debut after injuries to Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.
Apart from a nervous-looking first penalty attempt when Taylor appeared to pull his left shoulder around too soon and dragged the kick past the upright, the 24-year-old hardly put a foot wrong.
His first-up defence when the Wallabies were sending runners down the channels close to the ruck during the first half was sound, while he distributed and kicked well, made several telling runs, and eventually found his goal-kicking range.
One of his missed kicks bounced off two of the posts, while a penalty attempt from inside his own half had the distance but drifted just wide.
Taylor ended with 14 points, and was replaced late in the match after injuring his ribs.
He earned plaudits from his coach as to how well he had settled into the side during the week.
"I thought he coped tremendously well all week. (Assistant coach) Ian (Foster) did a magnificent job with him, nursing him along quietly," Hansen said.
"He is a confident, mature young player. He kicked well again ... he was assured in everything he did and you can't ask for any more than that for a player making his debut."
Hansen's biggest issue now, pending checks on Taylor's ribs, concerns which of his flyhalves he will play when the All Blacks face Argentina in their next Rugby Championship clash on September 7.
Carter and Barrett, who both had minor calf strains, trained during the week, while Cruden could come into consideration if he recovers from a knee injury.
Hansen, however, said he would not rush anyone back too early and if he has four to choose from it will be a difficult choice as he will "have to drop a couple".
"Don't know which ones yet," he said.
Given what happened on Saturday, it was a headache he could live with.
(Editing by Josh Reich)
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