Australia’s demoralising Bledisloe Cup drought will continue for another year after the Wallabies had their hearts broken in the most dramatic fashion on Thursday evening in a 39-37 defeat to the All Blacks in Melbourne.
After trailing 31-13 at one point, the Wallabies clawed their way back to a 37-34 lead with three minutes to go thanks to a sublime 48-metre penalty from Nic White.
With the ball under his arm and right in front of Australia’s own goalposts, Wallabies No.10 Bernard Foley went from hero to zero, moments after kicking a sideline conversion to tie scores at 34-34.
After a terrific turnover penalty from Lalakai Foketi, with just over a minute on the clock remaining, Foley was pinged for time-wasting, which gave the All Blacks a scrum in Australia’s 22.
Just as Foley was about to kick the ball into touch, which would have seen Australia then take a lineout up the field, French Mathieu Raynal awarded the visitors a scrum.
The Wallabies protested and a confused Foley couldn’t believe what was unfolding. Raynal told Foley he didn’t get on with play quick enough.
Moments later, with the Wallabies hanging on for dear life, Jordie Barrett scored the match-winner down the right edge after full-time to seal a two-point win and an unassailable 1-0 series lead.
As far as rugby nightmares go, they don’t get much worse.
Jordie Barrett scores the match-winner for New Zealand on Thursday night.Credit:Getty Images
“That’s a ridiculous call,” former Wallaby Tim Horan said in commentary.
The Bledisloe Cup will remain in New Zealand hands after Wallabies fans left Marvel Stadium in disbelief at what they had just seen.
It was one of the most incredible ends to an international match in recent memory. The backlash to the decision from Raynal will be fierce.
“I was just talking to Bernard Foley and what we knew was the time was out and he told the boys to play but the clock was stopped,” coach Dave Rennie told Stan Sport. “So there was no real urgency to do that and I don’t know – it just shows a little bit of a lack of feel for such an important moment in the game.”
Foley added: “We were still listening for the line out call. The ref said time off. I think it’s just disappointing how good a game that was. And yet we’re talking about the referee.”
Next week’s second Test at Eden Park is now bereft of context after Australia shot themselves in the foot earlier by having three players yellow-carded.
After clawing back a 10-point deficit to go into the sheds level with the Kiwis, the Wallabies were forced to battle on without skipper James Slipper and back-rower Rob Leota in the second half due to a pair of calf injuries.
The Kiwis were clunky in attack to begin the match but cranked it up to fifth gear by piling on three tries in 15 minutes after the break as they raced to a 31-10 lead.
With 19 minutes to go, Australia trailed 31-13 and the bookies had all but paid out the punters.
Enter Andrew Kellaway, who jagged a double in the space of six minutes to send a sell-out crowd at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne into a frenzy.
It was the one that got away from the Wallabies.Credit:Getty
Richie Mo’unga booted a penalty with nine minutes to go but Australia somehow kept in touching distance when Foley converted a Pete Samu try from the sideline.
White’s penalty should have been the moment of the year but it was overshadowed by a refereeing decision that will be analysed for days.
History has shown that Australia’s magic Bledisloe Cup number is 20. Keep the All Blacks below that and victory is a significantly more likely possibility.
The Kiwis went past the 20-point mark after 52 minutes when Mo’unga barged over moments after Jake Gordon was sent to the bin.
After 1082 days away from the Test arena, Foley started the evening in horror fashion as he spilled a high bomb but worked into the game nicely.
All his good work will be forgotten though after what occurred at the end.
Australia tried to make a provocative statement during the haka by walking towards their opponents as they performed their war dance.
It worked for England in their World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks in 2019 but had the reverse effect for the Wallabies as New Zealand blitzed the men in gold in the opening exchanges.
Australia’s decision-making was poor.
Why Len Ikitau tried to dart down the short side off the kick-off receive is anyone’s guess. He was subsequently crunched into touch before New Zealand marched downfield and scored a rolling maul try courtesy of hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho in the fourth minute.
Similarly, Marika Koroibete didn’t kick in back play, tried to break the line, found himself isolated and turned over possession.
That’s straight out of the coach-killer textbook and Rennie suffered through too many similar moments during his time in charge.
It wasn’t until the 11-minute mark that Australia, trailing 10-0, gained meaningful possession but even then, a poor cleanout gifted New Zealand easy ball.
Foley eased the nerves with a penalty before Kellaway bombed a try that should have been scored nine times out of ten.
After a beautiful tip-on from Ikitau, Kellaway opted against passing to winger Tom Wright as he charged towards the line. Kellaway thought he’d scored but replays showed Rieko Ioane had somehow prevented the tip of the ball from flicking the turf.
A simple draw and pass would have sufficed but the Wallabies found their five-pointer shortly after when Rob Valetini muscled his way over from short range to level scores at 10-10.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Australia went from pick and driving on New Zealand’s line to being camped in their own 22 with two players in the bin.
Wright was the first to be yellow-carded, for a cynical play, before a further inspection from the man upstairs showed Darcy Swain had cleaned out Kiwi reserve Quinn Tupaea in a dangerous manner.
Down to 13 men for the final five minutes of the first half, Australia repelled two key All Blacks attacking threats – including a magnificent try-saving play from Gordon – to head to the break on level pegging.
The torment could continue next week for the Wallabies, with perhaps the most difficult assignment in world rugby – the All Blacks in Auckland. Australia haven’t beaten the Kiwis at Eden Park since 1986.
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