AUSTRALIA prevented New Zealand from claiming a world-record 18th consecutive win by holding the world champions to a 12-12 draw in a try-less Rugby Championship opener that left both sides disappointed.
In a gritty encounter played out in a Sydney rainstorm, Australia were handed a glimpse of an upset when South African referee Jaco Peyper showed yellow cards to All Blacks Wyatt Crockett and Beauden Barrett either side of the break.
They tied the match up with stand-off Kurtley Beale’s fourth penalty ten minutes from time after Barrett was sin-binned but were unable to make the most of their superior numbers and secure a first victory over the All Blacks for three years.
All Blacks stand-off Aaron Cruden scored all of his side’s points with four penalty kicks of his own as New Zealand came up short of a win for the first time in the three years of the Rugby Championship.
The draw means New Zealand continue to share the record of 17 consecutive victories by a top tier nation with the 1965-69 All Blacks and South Africa side of 1997-98.
“How does it feel not to get the record? The same as we feel about not getting the win – it sucks,” said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.
“We made mistakes and didn’t play the way we wanted to but we did defend for long periods of time and showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage.
“When you’re playing one of the best sides in the world with only 14 men for 20 minutes, it’s hard work.”
The Wallabies also ended the last lengthy New Zealand winning streak with an 18-18 draw in Brisbane two years ago that stopped the All Blacks on 16 wins, but Australia captain Michael Hooper was also downcast.
“It feels a bit like a loss. To get that pressure there at the end and to get the chance but not come out on top,” he said. “Guys in the changing room are a bit down.”
The teeming rain was always going to make for a poor spectacle and the first half was certainly not one of free-flowing attacking rugby.
Cruden and Beale exchanged penalties in the first 11 minutes but the All Blacks countered the home side’s blitz defence with clever short kicks into the backfield.
Another two Cruden penalties put New Zealand 9-3 up after 21 minutes.
The home side spurned a couple of kickable penalties towards the end of the half but did get some return just before the break when prop Crockett was sin-binned for a cynical foul after the Wallabies took a quick tap.
Hooper finally gave Beale another penalty attempt after the half-time hooter but the No.10 hit the upright and the subsequent Wallabies attack fizzled out when Wycliff Palu was bundled into touch.
Beale narrowed the deficit with his second penalty four minutes after the break but that was the only score the Wallabies managed before the All Blacks were back to a full complement.
Scrum-half Nic White sent the Wallabies deep into the All Blacks half with a neat kick in the 53rd minute, and Beale levelled up the scores after All Blacks winger Julian Savea had done well to keep the ball in play.
Cruden gave the visitors a 12-9 lead just before the hour mark but Australia nearly hit back through Pat McCabe, only a brilliant double tackle from Savea and centre Ryan Crotty preventing the winger from crossing the line.
Australia had the momentum, though, and with the All Blacks under severe pressure, replacement stand-off Barrett was shown a yellow card for slowing the ball down in the 69th minute.
Beale again squared the scores from the kicking tee but the Wallabies were just unable to give the 68,627 crowd the victory they craved.