Wallabies pull off miracle escape against Springboks
A contentious injury-time try to centre Tevita Kuridrani saw Australia snatch a 24-20 victory from South Africa’s clutches in a Suncorp Stadium thriller on Saturday night.
The Wallabies trailed 13-7 at halftime after Adam Ashely-Cooper and Eben Etzebeth traded tries. The home side was on the ropes just four minutes into the second stanza when Springboks debutant Jesse Kriel scored a dazzling solo try, but Australia dug in to claw back from the 13-point deficit.
A Quade Cooper penalty trimmed gap to 10, but it was not until the 74th minute that the Wallabies crossed the stripe again, Nick Phipps sending Michael Hooper over to give them a sniff of victory. After Matt Giteau’s late 40-metre penalty attempt fell short, Australia ignored another chance to level inside the final minute, instead opting for a lineout throw.
Several nerve-jangling phases later, Kuridrani forced his way over and the TMO sent the line-ball decision back in Australia’s favour, ruling the No.13 giant had forced the ball on the try-line.
While vast improvement is still required, the last-gasp triumph was a big step in the right direction as the Wallabies look to build ahead of the World Cup. Several spots remain up for grabs, and the Genia-Cooper-Giteau combination was less than convincing, but the pieces are there for coach Michael Cheika, who praised his charges’ attitude after the comeback.
All Blacks bounce back to form
New Zealand put a disappointing showing against Samoa nine days earlier behind them with an impressive 39-18 win over a gallant Argentina outfit in Christchurch on Friday night. Canterbury veterans Richie McCaw and Dan Carter enjoyed a fitting farewell in their last match in front of their home-town fans, with skipper McCaw scoring a try and Carter booting 14 points.
The All Blacks led 18-6 at halftime after tries to McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, before Charles Piatau and Kieran Read crossed inside the first eight minutes of the second half. But the Pumas rallied admirably, dominating possession during the middle stages of the half and pegging the score back to 32-18 after captain and hooker Augustin Creevy bagged two tries within six minutes from rolling mauls.
Another Crusader, debutant hooker Codie Taylor, capped off the win with a 71st-minute try. But fellow first-gamer Waisake Naholo, who was superb on the right wing, hobbled off during the second half with what was later revealed to be a broken leg, seemingly ending his World Cup dream. Israel Dagg and Sonny Bill Williams returned to top form after coming in for criticism in for their performance in Apia, while TJ Perenara and Luke Romano were also among the ABs’ best in a bruising encounter.
Fiji, Tonga and Japan open Pacific Nations Cup with wins
The Pacific Nations Cup produced an entertaining opening weekend of matches, with Fiji outlasting Tonga 30-22 in a thrilling grudge match in Suva, Japan picking up a resounding 20-6 away win over Canada, and Samoa making hard work of their road trip to take on underdogs USA, eventually prevailing 21-16.
Cory Jane injury overshadows Barbarians defeat of Maori
The New Zealand Barbarians combination racked up an outstanding 34-17 defeat of the Maori All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night, but an ankle injury to star winger Cory Jane took the gloss off the match for New Zealand’s coaching and selection panel. Jane’s availability for the World Cup is now in doubt – a bitter blow in light of Waisake Naholo’s broken leg setback. Blake Gibson, Mitchell Drummond, Seta Tamanivalu, Patrick Osborne and Tom Taylor scored tries for the Barbarians, who led 15-3 at halftime, while livewire Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie and Cody Rey crossed for the Maori All Blacks in the second stanza.