All Blacks win epic Dunedin battle
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP REPORT: New Zealand bagged the Bledisloe Cup title for the 15th consecutive year after a hard-fought 35-29 over a resilient Australia team on Saturday at Dunedin.
It could be labelled as the best Test match between the two sides we have experienced in years.
The victory meant the All Blacks claimed the Bledisloe Cup, contested between the two sides, for a 15th consecutive year and have a perfect 2-0 start to the Rugby Championship with home and away games against South Africa and Argentina still to come.
The Wallabies knew they had a mammoth task ahead of them, especially after that humiliating 54-34 in the first Test a week ago. To add further tension to the Wallabies, the match started 10 minutes late due to problems re-adjusting the lights after they were dimmed during a pre-match tribute to Sir Colin Meads.
Nonetheless, the match continued and it seems the little bit of stress did Micahel Chieka's team good.
The visitors might be on the losing side, but their performance is something the Australian rugby fraternity really needed.
They took a 17-0 lead after just 15 minutes of play and went onto lead 17-14 at the break.
Both teams scored five tries a piece, but Beauden Barrett successful five conversions proved to be the difference.
All Blacks got the game underway and were on the attack immediately. However, it was the Wallabies who scored first after just 26 seconds of play. Israel Folau intercepted Damian McKenzie's pass and made his way from his own 22 to the oppositions try-line for the points.
Bernard Foley failed to convert, 5-0.
All Blacks regrouped and proved to be a real threat inside the Wallabies' five. However, Wallabies' defence stood solid and with 10 minutes on the clock, the Wallabies extended their lead thanks to captain Michael Hooper. The skipper snapped the ball from the five-metre line-out and burst through Sam Cane's arms for the try.
This time, Foley added the extras, 12-0.
All Blacks were dominating scrums, but Australia were picking up all the points. And soon Foley got his name on the board after Will Genia collected the ball at the back of the scrum.
Foley seemed to have left his kicking boot at home, the flyhalf again failed to convert the easy kick, 17-0.
It took the All Blacks 20 minutes to crack the Wallabies defence. The All Blacks had an attacking line-out, and after some phases, Reiko Ioana burst over Genia to score. Barrett added the extras to trail, 7-17.
The All Blacks narrowed the deficit just before the break. After a failed attempt by Ben Smith and a scrum inside the Wallabies' five, eventually, Aaron Smith dotted over the line. Barrett added the extras to trail, 14-17 at the break.
All Blacks started the second half with full intent, they continued to make use of their forward drive and scrum to dominate the Wallabies.
On the hour mark, All Blacks took the lead for the first time in the match. They turned down the three points and opted for a scrum. A Smith linked up with Barrett who produced a dummy and went over the chalk. The flyhalf converted his own try, 21-17.
The lead was short-lived as Genia responded with a try from a counter attack. Again Foley failed to add the extras, 22-21.
With minutes left on the clock, the lead shifted hands twice.
First B Smith went over the line after 22 phases, McKenzie's pass found the wing on the right, who just had the chalk to beat, 28-22.
In the countdown to the final whistle, Kurtley Beale scored to put Australia back in front before Barrett scored the match winner for the All Blacks.
Man of the match: Australia fullback Israel Folau was amazing in attack, and his ability under the high ball put a lot of pressure on the All Blacks. Replacement Ardie Savea was really influential at the breakdown when he got to the field, while captain Kieran Read hard work up front help his side. However our man of the match goes to Australia scrumhalf Will Genia who had a great performance, the scrumhalf dictated play really well and was just had an overall good game.
Moment of the match: Folau's intercept try in the opening seconds of the match! It just set the pace for the match.
Villian of the match: There was no villain, the game was played in good spirit!
For New Zealand:
Tries: Ioane, A Smith, B Smith, Barrett 2
Cons: Barrett 5
Tries: Folau, Hooper, Foley, Genia, Beale
Cons: Foley 2
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Curtis Rona.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Source: AFP & Rugby365.com