Dunedin - Australia
withstood a furious late charge to upset New Zealand 23-18 in a
pulsating Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday, piercing a fresh hole in the
world champions' aura of invincibility.
Reece Hodge's monster, 53-metre penalty just before the final whistle
sealed victory for the Wallabies, who celebrated just their second win
in 19 games against their exalted neighbours.
After trailing by one point at half-time, Australia fought back to
claim a physical victory over the All Blacks, scoring three tries to two
in a high-quality match.
New Zealand, who had already retained the Bledisloe Cup after winning
the opening two games during the Rugby Championship, dominated early
and seemed certain to make it a clean sweep in Brisbane.
But the Wallabies, wearing a specially designed jersey to honour
Australia's indigenous players, dug deep in the second half to take the
lead before holding off the visitors' trademark late surge.
"At half-time we said this game is going to come down to the last few minutes," Australian coach Michael Cheika said.
"You're not going to defeat the world champions with 20 minutes to go - it just doesn't happen.
"We had some setbacks before that, but we also made some key plays."
The Wallabies had come agonisingly close to ending their run of
defeats against New Zealand when they conceded a late converted try to
lose 35-29 in Dunedin in August.
But they stood firm to hand a second defeat of the season to the All
Blacks, who will be going for their third straight World Cup title in
two years' time in Japan.
Cheika said he wasn't getting carried away with the win.
"I've always got it in the back of my mind is our duty is to bring back the trophy, which we haven't done," he said.
"As enjoyable as the win was, the disappointment of not winning the cup still resonates with me."
Although New Zealand have retained their Rugby Championship and
Bledisloe Cup titles this year, they also drew their three-Test series
with the British and Irish Lions and haven't exerted the same dominance
of recent years.
As well as their last-gasp win over Australia in August, they trailed
Argentina in the second half in New Plymouth and beat South Africa by a
single point this month in Cape Town.
"They deserved the win," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen conceded.
"They worked hard and put us under pressure as well.
"Hopefully they kick on and have a great northern tour."
Slippery conditions in Brisbane meant both sides made plenty of errors, particularly early in the match.
The home side were put under huge pressure early on as the visitors controlled the match with some superb tactical kicking.
However, it was the Wallabies who struck first when New Zealand
flyhalf Lima Sopoaga had the ball knocked from his grasp straight into
the arms of Australian winger Hodge, who raced 70 metres to score under
The All Blacks hit back 15 minutes into the first half when an
unmarked Waisake Naholo crossed in the corner. Sopoaga converted from
out wide to level the scores, then put the All Blacks ahead 10-7 with a
The New Zealand flyhalf, starting in place of the injured Beauden
Barrett, kicked his second penalty when the otherwise outstanding
Wallabies flank Jack Dempsey was caught offside in front of the posts.
The All Blacks continued to look the more dangerous, but right on
half-time Australia finally enjoyed some possession in the New Zealand
22 and fullback Israel Folau ghosted through the defence to score his
seventh try in nine Test matches in Brisbane.
Bernard Foley missed the conversion as the visitors went into the
break 13-12 up, and he also miscued a penalty attempt 10 minutes into
the second half from 38 metres on the left.
But six minutes later, Australian captain Michael Hooper turned down an easier penalty attempt and opted to kick for touch.
The Wallabies spun the ball wide after a rolling maul sucked in the
New Zealand defenders and Marika Koroibete crossed in the corner.
Foley couldn't convert but the Wallabies were well on top and Hodge
extended their lead to 20-13 with a penalty from almost 40 metres out
with 15 minutes remaining.
But the All Blacks came storming back and after a superb Sonny Bill
Williams offload, Reiko Ioane crossed out wide to make it 20-18 with
nine minutes remaining.
However, there was to be no last hurrah for the All Blacks this time
around as Hodge thumped his late, long penalty over the sticks to seal
Tries: Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete
Conversion: Bernard Foley
Penalties: Hodge (2)
Try: Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane
Conversion: Lima Sopoaga
Penalties: Sopoaga (2)
15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Henry Speight
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 David Havili