All Blacks and Wallabies in dramatic stalemate
BLEDISLOE CUP REPORT: It required 90 minutes of bone-crunching and thrilling rugby, but nothing could separate New Zealand and Australia in a wet Wellington on Sunday.
The All Blacks and Wallabies played to a 16-all stalemate in the first of four Bledisloe Cup matches.
Two tries each, two penalties each tells just part of the story.
For the 46 exhausting players the draw is perhaps the best result.
With so much effort and drama, neither team deserved to lose.
The rain became stronger during the course of a game that saw the Wallabies enjoy 67 percent possession and 72 percent territory in the first half – a statistic that did not change much after the break – the final count stood at 64 percent possession and 66 percent territory for the Wallabies, who played against a strong wind in the first half a with it in their backs after the break.
* Did you miss any of the action? To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The gripping encounter also saw the return of international rugby, following the COVID-19-enforced global lockdown.
Play continued nearly 10 minutes after the final hooter sounded as neither side wanted to settle for a draw in front of a near-capacity 31,000 mask-free spectators with New Zealand having largely contained the virus.
For the All Blacks and Wallabies, it was almost a year since they last played at the World Cup in Japan, and it was exactly 400 days since the last Test match in New Zealand.
In addition to the COVID distraction, the Test build-up was also rocked by disputes between New Zealand and Australia over Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, and when it came to the on-field contest there were signs of rust.
But there was also a keen edge, and the draw leaves the four-match Bledisloe series wide open as Australia push to end an 18-year drought.
“Draws are always funny, aren’t they?” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
“You could probably say both teams had their chances.
“We probably should have been leading by a bit more heading into the second half,” he added.
“Credit to the Aussies, as they always do they stuck at it and they were only a whisker away from taking it. It’s all set up for next week now.”
It was a moral victory for new Wallaby coach Dave Rennie against All Black counterpart Ian Foster in the battle of the two New Zealand natives who both experiencing their first Test matches in charge.
While Foster has an experienced squad, Rennie is rebuilding and his new-look Wallabies, particularly debutants Harry Wilson and Filipo Daugunu, showed they were capable of rattling the All Blacks.
Australia was let down by a high penalty count and a number of lost opportunities, such as seeing giant lock Matt Philip turned over by the diminutive Damian McKenzie a metre short of the line.
McKenzie, a late replacement for the injured Beauden Barrett, also pulled off a spectacular tackle to stop Daugunu from scoring in the opening minutes.
“I’m very proud of our team,” said Australia captain Michael Hooper, who was winning his 100th cap.
“Despite the conditions, despite the result, we are off to a good start with some things.”
The Wallabies did most of the early attacking, but once the All Blacks adjusted their lines to counter the Wallabies rush defence, slick passing from Aaron Smith and Shannon Frizell put Jordie Barrett in the clear for a 25-metre run to the line to open the scoring.
After Barrett and James O’Connor traded penalties, the All Blacks had a chance to extend their lead on the stroke of half-time when Sam Cane pounced on a dropped ball by Folau Fainga’a to set up a sweeping 60-metre move, only for Rieko Ioane to lose the ball over the try line.
It only took three minutes into the second half for the All Blacks to get their second try when George Bridge set up Aaron Smith for the five-pointer.
But at 13-3 ahead, the All Blacks lost their structure allowing the Wallabies to strike back with quick tries to Marika Koroibete and Daugunu midway through the half.
In a dramatic close, an O’Connor penalty five minutes from time put the Wallabies ahead for the first time.
Barrett kicked an equaliser three minutes later and with a minute left Reece Hodge hit the uprights with a huge 60-metre effort which lead to a 10-minute scramble as both sides fought in vain to secure the winning score.
“Man, it was close though, a kick off the post,” said Hooper.
“But we’ll go next week at Eden Park, we’re up for the challenge.
“A lot to like there, but we would have liked to close it out though.”
Man of the match: It is almost unfair to single out individuals, with so many great performances. Damian McKenzie was not flawless as a late fullback replacement for New Zealand, but showed great tactical appreciation – even winning crucial turnovers at the breakdown. Then there was Aaron Smith, again a massive influence at scrumhalf. Sam Whitelock had plenty of good work on defence and captain Sam Cane certainly did not disgrace himself with 25 tackles. The most productive All Black forward was Shannon Frizell – who added 15 tackled and showed great skills and high workrate. The two Wallaby props – Taniela Tupou and James Slipper were good value. Michael Hooper produced his usual energetic performance to mark his 100th Test. Rookie lock Matt Philip got through a mountain of work. Nic White took a lot of the decision-making and playmaking upon himself at scrumhalf, while flyhalf James O’Connor became more prominent as the game wore on. Marika Koroibete showed his awesome finishing ability, but our award goes to Australia’s sensational new flyer – Filipo Daugunu producing some powerful runs down the right wing to collect 130 metres from 15 carries, scored a crucial try and even found time to win a penalty turnover at the breakdown.
Moment of the match: So many to talk about. We start with Rieko Ioane’s knock-on in the ingoal area on the stroke of half-time, Aaron Smith try four minutes into the second half – when he even handed off opposite Nic White. Marika Koroibete try in the 53rd minute brought the Wallabies back in the contest. There were the penalties by James O’Connor (74th minute, to give Australia the lead for the first time) and Jordie Barrett’s equaliser with just over a minute to go. However, in a game of such drama, nothing can beat Reece Hodge’s 60-metre attempt at winning with the hooter for full-time having already sounded. In what was meant to be, it seems, he hit the upright and left the game at a stalemate.
Villain: Not a big nasty, but this shout-out goes to All Black centre Rieko Ioane, who got a big lesson in the cost of showboating when he dropped the ball in the ingoal area on the stroke of half-time. It should also be a lesson for all those showboaters out there.
For New Zealand
Tries: Barrett, Smith
Pens: Barrett 2
Tries: Koroibete, Daugunu
Pens: O’Connor 2
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tupou Vaai, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Harry Wilson, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Reece Hodge.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe, Angus Gardner
TMO: Mike Fraser
@rugby365com, with additional reporting by AFP