CHRIS BARCLAY 19/08/2012
A new tournament, a fresh coaching set-up and a familiar scenario - the All Blacks retention of the Bledisloe Cup is on track after they opened the inaugural Rugby Championship with a 27-19 win over Australia in Sydney.
The world champions will now be favoured to lock down the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy at Eden Park next week, where they are undefeated in 28 tests dating back to 1994.
Australia has not triumphed in Auckland for 26 years and return to the scene of last year's World Cup devastation shaken by another error-prone performance - a defeat that prolongs Robbie Deans' coaching woes against his homeland.
His record now stands at three wins and 13 losses since his reign began in 2008 with a rare victory at ANZ Stadium - and despite an improved second half they were unable to atone for Kurtley's Beale's critical blunders.
A Berrick Barnes penalty narrowed the gap to five points in the 75th minute but the All Blacks maintained their composure down the stretch after Hosea Gear and Cory Jane were both unable to complete stress-relieving scores.
However, Dan Carter slotted a last-minute penalty to underscore their dominance - and deny the Wallabies a bonus point.
Beale was selected to inherit Quade Cooper's playmaking responsibilities but instead resembled the discarded pivot's World Cup meltdown with a horrific opening half.
The fullback was culpable for both All Black tries, encapsulating a muddled collective performance by the Wallabies until 106-cap veteran Nathan Sharpe barged over a minute from the interval.
Beale endured an injury-disrupted Super Rugby campaign - which limited hom to a solitary appearance in the June international window - and now carries some self-inflicted psychological damage to Eden Park.
Counterpart Israel Dagg initiated Beale's forgettable night when he stood up his marker with only centimetres to work with in the 13th minute after Carter produced a perfect pass after Sonny Bill Williams caused defensive indecision as a decoy runner.
Beale then set the scene for Cory Jane's touchdown seven minutes from halftime when he shelled a Genia pass 10-metres from the posts, facilitating a sold set piece platform before Dagg's slick transfer put the wing over outside the shame-faced custodian.
Sharpe, the only current Wallaby to have held the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy, dragged the Wallabies back into the contest when he proved unstoppable from close range, while Cooper's replacement Barnes narrowed the gap further by slotting two penalties either side of a successful Carter three-pointer.
Williams' initially mirrored his two previous uninspiring tests appearances against the Wallabies when his first possession culminated in a forward pass and was generally well contained in his high-profile return to Sydney for the first time since 2009.
Until Sharpe's morale-boosting try the Wallabies barely threatened as the All Blacks exerted control apart from an anxious moment in the 23rd minute when a Will Genia break initiated rare defensive pressure until Beale took a quick tap from a kickable penalty after Ma'a Nonu drifted offside.
Beale's split-second decision backfired when the All Blacks muscled up on their line until Alain Rolland awarded a penalty, summing up the Wallabies inaccuracy and flawed decision-making.
Both sides wore black arm bands to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day while the All Blacks also honoured Pralli Drurrer and Rory Malone, New Zealand army soldiers killed in Afghanistan on August 4.
All Blacks 27 (Israel Dagg, Cory Jane tries; Dan Carter 5 pen con) Wallabies 19 (Nathan Sharpe try; Berrick Barnes 4 pen con). HT: 18-10