LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - New Zealand led Australia 16-3 at half-time in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final and were on course to become the first country to win the trophy three times.
Both teams are bidding for that honour, while the Kiwis are also aiming to become the first country to successfully defend the crown.
The All Blacks, who are looking to win the title on foreign soil for the first time, dominated the first half against their antipodean neighbours with characteristically powerful and flamboyant rugby.
Never behind in the contest, New Zealand owed much to their flyhalf Dan Carter who kicked them ahead, and kept them there with a nerveless performance in front of the posts, and creative distribution elsewhere.
Very physical at the breakdown, the All Blacks kept the Wallabies on the back foot in the early stages, and only a Bernard Foley penalty put the Wallabies on the scoreboard.
The Wallabies targeted Carter with high tackles -- front row Sekope Kepu being the worst culprit -- but the flyhalf shook off the punishment to continue spearheading Kiwi efforts.
Australia suffered a blow when they lost Matt Giteau’s 10 minutes before the end of the half as the veteran centre failed to pass a head injury assessment and when referee Nigel Owens missed what looked like a clear forward pass five minutes before the whistle to instead award the All Blacks a penalty for offside, the die appeared cast.
Carter kicked it for a 9-3 lead and soon after a blistering exchange of All Black passes resulted in captain Richie McCaw offloading to Nehe Milner-Skudder, who dived down for the first try of the game seconds before half time.
Carter, predictably, kicked the conversion as New Zealand went in 16-3 ahead.