Australia 18 - 18 New Zealand: Brave Wallabies halt All Blacks’ record push
New Zealand’s 16-match winning streak was brought to an end with a nail-biting 18-18 draw against a brave and undermanned Wallabies outfit in the third Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane.
It means minnows Lithuania continue to hold the record of 17 successive international wins and that the All Blacks will not now arrive at Murrayfield next month with the chance to set a new benchmark with victory over Scotland.
While there were no tries, neither side left anything in the tank in a physically and emotionally draining match in front of a bumper Lang Park crowd of 51,888.
Play continued for several minutes after the final siren and New Zealand’s Dan Carter had the opportunity to win the game.
But his dropped goal attempt was wide of the mark, meaning an 80-minute penalty-fest between the two trans-Tasman rivals would end in an epic stalemate.
Rank outsiders before the match, Australia started with intent and felt the benefit of the boot of Mike Harris (five from five for the match) to claim a richly-deserved 12-6 lead at the interval.
Taking advantage of some uncharacteristic All Blacks mistakes – including a yellow card to Tony Woodcock on the half-time whistle – the home nation barely put a foot wrong in the first 40 minutes.
But turnovers began to creep back into their game after the break as a frustrated New Zealand moved to whittle away their advantage.
At 15-9 up after Kurtley Beale’s long-range penalty for the Wallabies, Michael Hooper earned himself a ten-minute spell in the bin following a late challenge on Aaron Smith – and New Zealand duly capitalised. Turning up the heat on Australia, Carter (six from eight) reduced the arrears with the ensuing penalty – and then added another three points to tie things up on 67 minutes.
Four minutes later, the All Blacks took the lead for the first time when Adam Ashley-Cooper spilled a high ball, allowing Carter to kick his sixth penalty from right in front.
But the Wallabies levelled again with Harris’s fifth penalty as they pushed to send retiring skipper Nathan Sharpe out on a winning note. But that result wasn’t to be.
The Kiwis were incensed that Hosea Gear’s 23rd-minute effort was chalked off after a superb counter down the left flank.
Harris and Gear were charging towards the ball and the former saved the day with a tap-down – although replays suggested he may not have got a finger on it at all.
The match threatened to boil over at times in the first period, with Scott Higginbotham likely to face sanction for what appeared to be a headbutt on New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.
Australia dominated possession at stages of the first half and went closest to a try in a long, searching but ultimately fruitless 19th-minute foray.
They were not helped by the inevitable addition of one more to the long list of wounded Wallabies – Sitaleki Timani trudged off in the 21st minute, replaced by Kane Douglas.
Scorers: Australia: Pens: Harris (5), Bealie. New Zealand: Pens: Carter (6).
Australia: M Harris; N Cummins (D Mitchell 67), B Tapuai, P McCabe, A Ashley-Cooper; K Beale, N Phipps (B Sheehan 71); B Robinson, T Polota Nau (J Hanson 72), J Slipper (S Kepu 41), S Timani (K Douglas 21, L Gill 64), N Sharpe (capt), S Higginbotham, M Hooper, W Palu (D Dennis 45).
New Zealand: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith (B Smith 52), M Nonu (A Cruden 62), H Gear; D Carter, A Smith (P Weepu 60); T Woodcock, K Mealamu (A Hore 57), Ch Faumuina (O Franks 50), B Retallick (L Romano 68), S Whitelock, L Messam (V Vito 71), R McCaw (capt), K Read.
Referee: C Joubert (Rsa). Attendance: 51,888
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