Via All Blacks Media
A Bledisloe Cup contest fit to rank with all the great tussles between Australia and New Zealand was played out in Dunedin on Saturday before the All Blacks claimed a 35-29 Investec Rugby Championship win three minutes from time.
It was an effort that called on all the resources of the All Blacks who had to overcome a 0-17 deficit after only 14 minutes, and then come back as the lead changed hands throughout the second half before the Bledisloe Cup was locked away for another year.
The Australians came back strongly from the disappointments of their first Test performance and caused all manner of concerns before the home team capitalised on the power of their pack and an off-night in goal-kicking by Australia’s first five-eighths Bernard Foley to score five converted tries as Beauden Barrett scored 24 points from his two tries and seven conversions.
Using their scrum power, where tighthead prop Nepo Laulala had a superb starting effort and loosehead Joe Moody demonstrated all his strength and class, the All Blacks were helped by a key try just before half-time to go to the break down 14-17.
The Wallabies were also guilty of conceding 12 penalties to the All Blacks five as the home team enjoyed 61 percent of possession and 63 percent in territory. But the much criticised Australian defence stood up much better once again leaving the All Blacks with plenty to ponder in the future games of the Championship.
The game was delayed about 15 minutes due to lighting issues at the stadium which resulted in Australia’s coach Michael Cheika demanding more time for his players to warm up.
Bolstered by lock Sam Whitelock charging onto the ball from the kick-off, the All Blacks set up the ball and moved it through the backline but fullback Damian McKenzie’s long pass was intercepted by his opposite Israel Folau and he raced 70m through vacant real estate to score in the 26th second.
The All Blacks were untidy, and while producing a massive scrum to gain a tighthead their handling mistakes, four of them, allowed the Australians to settle quickly and from a penalty they were able to kick the ball high into the All Blacks’ 22m area where the ball went to touch off McKenzie’s hand.
From the 10th minute lineout the All Blacks failed to cover the ball and flanker Michael Hooper emerged from the maul to go over unchallenged for their second try.
Then another big All Blacks scrum had Australia on the back foot, but halfback Will Genia took the chance to break on the open side and found Hooper in support. When he was tackled, Foley took charge and scored Australia’s third after 14 minutes.
Twice the All Blacks opted for penalties with lineouts in the corner, from the first flanker Sean Hannigan cut off a pass from Aaron Smith but from the second the All Blacks power opened the chance for Smith to flick an inside pass for wing Rieko Ioane to drive over for his sixth try in Tests.
Into the second half, after the All Blacks had gone to the break 14-17 behind off an Aaron Smith try around a ruck, the All Blacks looked to use their scrum and lineout as often as possible at the number of infringements the Australians were making. From a lineout five metres out lock Brodie Retallick got over the line but the TMO saw no evidence of a grounding.
They continued to apply pressure in the Australian 22m area and from a 60-minute scrum option from a penalty, Barrett ran the blindside and got over to claim the lead for the first time in Genia’s tackle.
But after showing patience under the extreme pressure imposed by the All Blacks the ball was turned over and Australia worked the ball back downfield and when the chance came Genia was able to snipe around the ruck and regain the lead.
Then building through 22 frenetic phases where Retallick, Whitelock, Barrett and McKenzie were all involved several times before finally Barrett and McKenzie created the chance for Ben Smith got over wide out.
That wasn’t the end however, as another penalty conceded by New Zealand gave Australia the chance to build from their lineout drive and eventually it was second five-eighths Kurtley Beale who got over between the posts.
There was more to come, courtesy of another Read take of the re-start. That build impetus with Ioane charging onto the ball and taking it ahead before Read made a crucial carry and then replacement halfback TJ Perenara, who lifted the side at the right moment when joining the action, was back in the action to feed Barrett in for his second.
That sealed the result three minutes from the end.
Scorers: New Zealand 35(Rieko Ioane, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett 2, Ben Smith tries; Barrett 5 con) Australia 29 (Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Will Genia tries; Foley con). HT: 14-17