All Blacks captain Richie McCaw delivered a masterclass in the art of the 'jackal in the tackle' to rival flank David Pocock as New Zealand reached the World Cup Final with a convincing victory over Australia.
McCaw showed no sign of the foot injury dating back to surgery for a stress fracture at the start of the year that saw him pull out of two pool matches.
Pocock, who produced a startling display in Australia's quarterfinal win over the Springboks, failed to boss the breakdown at Eden Park on Sunday under a more stringent interpretation of the 'laws of the loose' by South African referee Craig Joubert.
The Wallaby made plenty of tackles, but tellingly did not force one turnover, compared to the nine he caused against defending champions South Africa.
"They had a huge physical presence from minute one to minute 80, led by Richie (McCaw)," All Blacks coach Graham Henry said of his side, adding that McCaw was "outstanding both in playing and leadership".
"There wasn't any doubt who played the better game, but Richie would probably be modest and say our front five dominated theirs and gave us a bit of an edge, which they did. But I thought he was pretty special, myself."
Australia coach Robbie Deans praised the All Blacks as a "very good defensive side. We lost our fluency. All credit to the All Blacks, they attacked the ball very well," he said.
McCaw made his presence known in the fourth minute, pressurising James O'Connor into giving away a five-metre scrum when he scragged the wing behind the Australian line.
The 30-year-old New Zealand skipper took a big hit from Radike Samo in the 10th minute but the Zimbabwe-born Pocock was penalised for leaving his feet coming into the resulting ruck.
Piri Weepu's penalty came back off the post but Wallaby loose forward Pocock fell foul of referee Joubert just a minute later and the All Black scrumhalf made no mistake in adding to an earlier Israel Dagg try.
McCaw was then penalised for not releasing on the floor, O'Connor hitting a penalty to open Australia's scoring, as both opensides tested the referee's patience in the loose.
Christchurch native McCaw proved his snaffling skills when stripping Anthony Fainga'a of the ball despite starting on the centre's back. And he was instrumental in forcing a crucial turnover on the stroke of half-time with Australia camped in the All Blacks 22 metre area.
McCaw also showed all his power with a destructive tackle on Will Genia 20 minutes into the second half, driving the Wallaby scrumhalf back and again forcing the turnover.
The 23-year-old Pocock then gave away another penalty in the 67th minute, striking replacement hooker Andrew Hore in the face in the process, but he was lucky to see Aaron Cruden's penalty drifting right of the posts.
Cheers erupted amongst a capacity crowd after Pocock was penalised again by Joubert for hands in the ruck with the Wallabies pressing to end a disappointing night for the Australian fetcher.
McCaw, who was also captain when New Zealand lost in the quarterfinals to France four years ago, is now set to have the chance to atone when the All Blacks return to Eden Park next Sunday to play in a final against the French.
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