Perth - Australia scored a stunning 47-26 upset over a shellshocked New Zealand side reduced to 14 men in a pulsating Rugby Championship clash on Saturday for a major confidence boost ahead of the World Cup.
WATCH: All Black Scott Barrett sees red!
A power-packed All Blacks were widely tipped to retain a stranglehold
over their trans-Tasman rivals in Perth, but a red card for Scott
Barrett in the dying seconds of the first half for a dangerous shoulder
charge made it an uphill battle.
He was only the fourth All Black ever to be sent off, with Sonny Bill
Williams the last, against the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
New Zealand went to the break 16-12 behind and in a game that doubled
as the opening Bledisloe Cup clash, they never recovered with Australia
crossing for six tries to the visitor's four, scoring their most points
ever against the All Blacks.
It was a major blow ahead of the All Blacks World Cup defence and
follows a narrow 20-16 victory over the Pumas last month before a
scrappy 16-16 draw against the Springboks two weeks ago, raising serious
questions over their all-conquering dominance.
"We're disappointed, Australia played particularly well," said coach Steve Hansen.
"The red card didn't help us, but we didn't help ourselves either.
Our discipline was poor early in the first half... there were numerous
occasions we got offside when we didn't need to.
"They're the sort of things we need to go away and fix up. At the end, they found more space than we could cover."
Hanson tested positional combinations in their opening two Rugby
Championship matches, but against Australia he reverted to what is
considered close to his starting 15 for their first game of the World
Cup in Japan next month.
But even before Barrett was sent packing, they struggled with ill
discipline, giving away three penalties in the opening stanza, all
converted by Christian Lealiifano with Australia dominating possession
It didn't improve in the second half, with the Wallabies pressing
their advantage with two early tries to rock the All Blacks' confidence
and keep alive hopes of getting their hands back on the Bledisloe Cup
for the first time since 2002.
The trans-Tasman rivals play the return leg in Auckland next week, with Australia needing to win to take home the silverware.
"It was some game, plenty of
action, when you get that atmosphere brewing it makes you want to play
better," said Australia coach Michael Cheika, with a 61 000-strong crowd
at Perth Stadium.
"A few things went our way, but I'm very pleased... We're all pumped."
The result justified Cheika's gamble in changing up the back-line. A
livewire Reece Hodge was a handful, James O'Connor, in his first start
in six years, slotted in seamlessly and Lealiifano was his usual calm
It gave Australia their first back-to-back victories in the Rugby Championship since 2016.
The Wallabies threatened from the outset and the pressure paid off with a converted penalty after seven minutes.
They quickly raced 10-0 ahead with O'Connor sending a lovely one-handed off-load to Hodge who sprinted to the line for a try.
Rattled, the All Blacks hauled themselves into the game with Anton
Lienert-Brown flopping onto a bouncing grubber kick to get their first
points of the game.
And they snatched the lead on 16 minutes after a turnover, with Dane
Coles making a break and Reiko Ioane punishing Australia by dotting down
for his 23rd try.
But another converted penalty put Australia back on top before
Barrett's clumsy shoulder charge caught Michael Hooper on the head and
French referee Jerome Garces sent him off.
Tries from Nic White and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto within eight minutes of the re-start left New Zealand with a near-impossible task.
They pegged one back through Beauden Barrett before Marika Koroibete
powered over for another Australian five-pointer and Hodge then got his
Ngani Laumape grabbed a consolation try, before Kurtley Beale rubbed salt in the wounds with the Wallabies' sixth.
Tries: Reece Hodge (2), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale
Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (2), Matt Toomua (2)
Penalties: Christian Lealiifano (3)
Tries: Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Ngani Laumape
Conversions: Richie Mo'unga (3)
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O'Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 Folau Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 George Bridge