Australia came within a whisker of a Bledisloe Cup upset win in Wellington but had to settle for a 16-16 draw in their first Test under new coach Dave Rennie. Reece Hodge had the chance to snatch a win with a 50m penalty shot after full-time that had the distance but heartbreakingly hit the upright.
Play continued in a desperate scramble for a further nine minutes but neither side was able to find the winning points, with James O’Connor finally electing to boot the ball into touch and settle for the draw. Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper, playing his 100th Test, said there was a lot to like about their performance. “I’m very proud of our team to fight all the way through,” Hooper said. “It was an enjoyable game, despite the conditions and despite the result, we are off to a good start with some things … there’s a lot of belief. It was close – a kick off the post – but we’ll go again next week.” O’Connor kicked a penalty in the 73rd minute to break a 13-13 deadlock and it looked like it could be enough for Australia to win in New Zealand for the first time since 2001. But veteran Australian lock Rob Simmons gave away a penalty with two minutes remaining, allowing All Blacks winger Jordie Barrett to level.
The Wallabies trailed 8-3 at half-time but their wingers Marika Koroibete and debutant Filipo Daugunu both scored within a 10-minute period to put the Australians on track for an unlikely victory. Bidding to break New Zealand’s 18-year stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup, the Australians were a little shaky early on, turning over three line-outs in the first half.
Australian touch judge Angus Gardner didn’t do the Wallabies any favours when he failed to raise his flag when Rieko Ioane put his foot on the line in the build-up to the All Blacks’ first try. The home side, in their first Test under new coach Ian Foster, worked the ball wide to make room for Barrett to open the scoring in the eighth minute. It then looked like they were in again right on half-time but Ioane blew a certain five-pointer when he lost control of the ball as he tried to put it down one-handed.
All Black halfback Aaron Smith made no mistake in the 43rd minute. But the Wallabies were not rattled, with their own No 9 Nic White mixing up his game to keep the All Blacks on their toes, while their defence did not give Richie Mo’unga an inch. Koroibete struck first as he shrugged off the tackle of Damien McKenzie, with the All Blacks fullback also turning over the ball for Daugunu’s try. The superb showing means the Wallabies can dare to dream of winning back the Bledisloe Cup, heading next to Auckland’s Eden Park next Sunday on a high.