By Daniel Cullinane
Even after the defeat by the Springboks in the last round of the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies would go into this match with quiet confidence. With home advantage against an All Blacks team who have looked shaky in this competition and beyond, they would have felt that they could get on top of their old rivals.
New Zealand would be in a better place after a resounding win against the Pumas, but there is still a sense that they are unsure of themselves. The Wallabies would seek to test the All Blacks alleged fragile state. The Wallabies set the tone for the game by advancing on the All Blacks during the Haka, signalling that they were really up for this one. However, as the game got under way it was the New Zealanders who took the initiative.
After just 3 minutes, All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho powered over the Wallabies try line to open the scoring. Following a successful conversion from fly half Richie Mo’unga the score was 0-7. The men in blacks dominance continued and was rewarded with another 3 points from the boot of Mo’unga. They were building nicely. The Wallabies were yet to turn up.
After 17 minutes, some good work by the Australians from a lineout lead to a kickable penalty. Veteran Aussie fly half, Bernard Foley who was exemplary all evening opened his account with three points. Some slick handling saw Wallaby full back Andrew Kellaway score in the corner. But on closer inspection it was clear that he had been unable to ground the ball.
The Australian team were growing in confidence and starting to impose themselves on the All Blacks. They kicked to the corner after being awarded a penalty at the scrum. There was a short drive from the ensuing lineout and then a pick and go to score by Aussie No8 Rob Valetini. Foley made it 10-10.
With an All Black going to the bin, the momentum was firmly with the Australians. Marika Koroibete charged up the field and smashed into New Zealand wing Caleb Clarke. The Wallaby forwards then dismantled the All Blacks at the resulting scrum. Although the scoreboard didn’t reflect it, Australia were on top. But then, everything changed. The Aussies hit self destruct. A superb and powerful break by Clarke ended with a pile-up near the Australian try line. Indiscipline meant that Tom Wright and Darcy Swain were sent to the bin. The tables turned almost instantly, with the All Blacks being held up over the line. Half time came, the score 10 all.
The men in Black had clearly been told to take advantage of the 13-man Australia, and did so in spectacular fashion. A testing kick in behind and then some rapid passing saw Samisoni Taukei’aho score his second try of the match. Soon the Wallabies were back to a full compliment and picked up another kickable penalty. Foley rarely misses, making the score 13-17.
More indiscipline led to Wallaby scrum half Jake Gordon going to the bin. New Zealand soon took advantage with Richie Mo’unga dissecting the Aussie backline to touch down near the posts. He converted his own try, making the score 13-24 to New Zealand.
Beauden Barrett then reminded everyone what a world-class player he is with a superbly weighted chip over the gold defence that was collected by wing Will Jordan, who raced away to score. The All Blacks were in cruise control. Australia then fired a shot of their own down the other end with Andrew Kellaway running on to a flat pass from Foley to grab a much needed score. Foley converted. Minutes later, Kellaway was at it again. Some long passes stretch the New Zealand defence allowing the full-back to score in the corner. 27-31 to Australia.
New Zealand then extended their lead through a Mo’unga penalty, but Australia weren’t finished yet. A brilliant one-two between Koroibete and Pete Samu saw the back row forward score. Foley then drew the teams level at 34 all. A remarkable comeback by Australia.
When Australia were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, the replacement scrum-half Nic White stepped up and kicked the points for Australia to take them into the lead. As expected, the All Blacks fought back but then gave away a penalty 2 metres from the Aussie try line. Then a moment of controversy saw referee Mathieu Raynal award a scrum to New Zealand for Bernhard Foley allegedly time wasting.
The All Blacks saw their chance. They won the ball, and then moved it wide, allowing Jordie Barrett to score in the corner in the 80th minute. The kick was missed, but it didn’t matter. The men in black had done enough to win the match and retain the Bledisloe cup. Australia will say they were on the wrong end of a refereeing decision, and that cost them the game. Their discipline needs to be fixed before the return fixture. Final score 37-39. Great game.