All Blacks and Wallabies dish up a Bledisloe Cup thriller
The game was the first rugby Test since March because of Covid-19 restrictions
Wellington — All Blacks winger Jordie Barrett slotted a 78th-minute penalty to snatch a 16-16 draw against Australia in their first Bledisloe Cup rugby Test on Sunday, a match that stretched nine minutes into injury time.
Wallabies replacement Reece Hodge had the opportunity to win the game in the second minute of injury time with a huge penalty that struck the posts, sparking a virtually continuous passage of play that lasted another seven minutes.
James O’Connor slotted a 74th-minute penalty to give the Wallabies a 16-13 lead and the visitors hope of achieving their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001. It was just their eighth draw in 167 clashes.
“I’m proud of the team and I really enjoyed the game despite the conditions and the result,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said. “It was close though and I would have liked to have closed it out.”
The game was the first rugby Test since March because of Covid-19 restrictions, and the first for new All Blacks coach Ian Foster and his Wallabies counterpart Dave Rennie.
The Wallabies had the most possession and territory throughout the match. The All Blacks had to rely on their counterattack to open their account with Barrett finishing off a sweeping 70m movement for the only try of the first half.
The All Blacks should have been up by more at the break, but Rieko Ioane dropped the ball while trying to put it down after they had turned over possession from a Wallabies’ attacking line-out to leave the score 8-3 at halftime.
Aaron Smith extended the lead to 13-3 early in the second half before Marika Koroibete and Filkipo Daugunu crossed to level the scores with less than 20 minutes remaining. The All Blacks had several opportunities to attempt a drop goal after Hodge’s missed penalty that would have won the game but did not take them.
“There wasn’t much stoppage to have a chat, it was pretty much all go,” All Blacks captain Sam Cane said about why they had not attempted a drop goal. “It just highlights that Test matches are about taking opportunities and there are only a couple in each game.”
Rennie was pleased with the disappointment among his players at the Wellington Regional Stadium. The disappointment showed his players felt they should have won the game and ended a 19-year losing streak to the All Blacks in New Zealand, he said.
“We are certainly disappointed because we had an opportunity to win it,” Rennie told reporters, adding that the team had played with “a lot of courage”.
“What I liked seeing is the disappointment in the guys in the changing room,” he said. “We let ourselves down.”
Rennie said his side would also have to live with an error by the match officials, with Australian assistant referee Angus Gardner missing Ioane putting his foot into touch in the lead up to Barrett’s first half try.
“You win some, you lose some,” he said. “You hope it doesn’t happen and there is some consistency but we’re certainly not going to complain about it.”
Rennie said the two weeks they spent in isolation in Christchurch had helped his side prepare but he expected there to be a lot more improvement from them.
“I think we are miles away from where we can be. We knew it [Sunday] wouldn’t be perfect,” he said. “We will grow our game, we will get a lot better. The All Blacks will get a lot better too. So, for us it’s about how we back up.”
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