All Blacks' amazing run ends
Australia ended New Zealand's amazing run of victories when the two sides played to a thrilling 18-all draw in their Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday.
Australia ended New Zealand's amazing run of victories when the two sides played to a thrilling 18-all draw in their Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane on Saturday.
Australia 'won' 18-all. It was a thrilling draw and the All Blacks did everything to win for their record's sake, but hats off to the Wallabies.
The result will go down forever as a draw but truly the Wallabies 'won'.
And the Test world record of 17 consecutive victories are still shared by New Zealand and South Africa.
The All Blacks went into the match as hot favourites. The Wallabies were scratching around to overcome all sorts of problems, not the least injuries and not the least criticism. But they proved that they have character, spirit and guts - great characteristics of their nation. They also told the world that there is nothing wrong with the united beating of the Wallaby heart. This was all heart.
The All Blacks on the other hand started looking rattled and ended decidedly rattled and yet there was still that brave heart that went from the brink to defeat to the brink of victory after the siren had sounded to end the match. But did they choke?
It was a thrilling finish. With six minutes to go Mike Harris kicked the penalty goal that levelled the scores, and it was the Wallabies who looked more like scoring in those six minutes as they went through phase after phase, picking and driving inch by inch closer - into a position to drop at goal as they hit the 22 in midfield.
The final siren sounded and on they went, but Sekope Kepu went off his feet at a tackle. There were 82 minutes up on the clock. All the All Blacks had to do was boot it out to settle for a draw, but the noble Richie McCaw opted for a scrum.
The All Blacks wanted to win the match 68 metres down the field. The Wallabies conceded two more penalties in rapid succession - at the scrum and then at a tackle - and suddenly Ben Smith was flying down to the Wallaby 22.
Now the All Blacks went through inch-by-inch phases and Dan Carter was in position, slap in front of the posts. He dropped. The world held its breath. He missed, and the final whistle went.
The Wallabies were probably relieved; the All Blacks were certainly disappointed.
What a thriller! No tries but a thriller.
The All Blacks had better chances to score tries but for much of the match the Wallabies were ahead. They got ahead through sheer determination while the All Blacks made many errors. It was at the tackle that the Wallabies were magnificent, driving in behind the ball to win the counterruck.
Australia kicked off and charged down Aaron Smith's clearing kick. The brilliant New Zealand scrum half may have been affected by this as he was nothing like his usual brilliant self. The ball went into touch-in-goal just ahead of Adam Ashley-Cooper. From the drop-out the Wallabies bashed into the All Blacks and Keven Mealamu, New Zealand's newest centurion, was penalised at a tackle. Harris goaled. 3-0 after 2 minutes.
When Kurtley Beale was penalised at a tackle, Dan Carter lined up a kick from 49 metres. The opposing, distracting noise from the crowd made it clear that there was a lot of New Zealand support in packed Suncorp Stadium. 3-3 after 6 minutes.
Sitaleki Timani knocked on and the All Blacks countered. Australia lost their first line-out and the All Blacks bashed ahead. Ma'a Nonu burst for the line and Aaron Smith was over next to the posts but he lost the ball in Beale's tackle. But back they went for a penalty at a tackle against Nick Phipps. 6-6 to New Zealand after 10 minutes.
The Wallabies then had their best period of attack with Tatafu Polota Nau close and it took a great tackle by Carter on Beale to prevent a try. But then Polota Nau lost the ball forward in the tackle, not for the only time in the match, and New Zealand survived.
They nearly scored down the left when Israel Dagg grubbered and Hosea Gear chased but Harris, with fingertips, beat Gear to the touchdown.
Beale kicked a poor kick and Cory Jane started a counterattack. Gear cut clean through but with one man to beat hung on despite support. That was the worst decision of the match.
There was worse behaviour soon after when Scott Higginbotham attacked McCaw and head-butted him. It was on the ground and at close quarters but will surely attract the attention of the citing process. Surely.
But at this stage it was prop Charlie Faumuina who was penalised and again Harris was successful. 6-all after 27 minutes and then, four minutes later, 9-6 to the Wallabies when McCaw was penalised.
The referee spoke to the All Blacks about the penalties conceded and when Tony Woodcock was penalised on the stroke of half-time, the referee sent him to the sin bin and Harris goaled.
It was half-time and the Wallabies led 12-6.
They went further ahead when Jane was penalised at a tackle and they were marched on 10 metres for kicking the ball away. It was a 50-metre kick and the Wallabies gave it to Beale. He goaled. 15-6 after 50 minutes.
From the kick-off Liam Messam got possession and charged. Carter goaled a penalty. 15-9 after 52 minutes. Back came the All Blacks and the Wallabies erred badly. Michael Hooper tackled Aaron Smith late and was sin-binned. Carter goaled the penalty 15-12.
Aaron Cruden came on for Nonu with Carter shifting to inside centre. Cruden grubbered and Jane was close to scoring, just out in grabbing the ball. Australia overthrew the subsequent line-out five metres from the line. McCaw grabbed it and bashed. The All Blacks bashed and then went wide left. The attack failed but the referee came back to a penalty against Ben Tapuai for a tackle infringement, giving Carter an easy kick. 15-all after 66 minutes.
The All Blacks kicked downfield. Under no pressure Ashley-Cooper knocked on and Phipps grabbed it from in front. Carter kicked the penalty. 18-15 with 10 minutes to play.
The Wallabies gathered all their strength and resolution and piled into the All Blacks. Owen Franks refused to move off a tackled player and up came brave Harris yet again. 18-18 with six minutes to play - six of the most thrilling rugby minutes this yet - actually 11 minutes as they played on beyond the allotted time.
Man of the Match: There were several Wallabies, including Mike Harris of the steel nerves and Kurtley Beale of the clever feet but our award goes Nathan Sharpe, the Wallaby captain, playing his last Test on home soil. He must have had a great hand in charging the emotions and courageous determination for this heroic effort.
Moment of the Match: The deflation that came when Dan Carter's drop-goal attempt missed.
Villain of the Match: This one no-doubt goes to Australian loose forward Scott Higginbotham. First there was a knee to the head of Richie McCaw and then a headbutt - it was ugly.
Pens: Harris 5, Beale
For New Zealand:
Pens: Carter 6
Yellow cards: Tony Woodcock (New Zealand, 39 - repeated infringements at the breakdown), Michael Hooper (Australia, 55 - foul play, late tackle)
Australia: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 James Slipper, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Drew Mitchell.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)