Australia and New Zealand opened the Rugby Championship with a 12-12 draw on a sodden Saturday night at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, a result which denied New Zealand a record 18th consecutive test win.
Wallabies flyhalf Kurtley Beale and Aaron Cruden kicked four penalties apiece in the Bledisloe Cup match as the wet and greasy conditions stifled expansive play and ended New Zealand’s quest to beat the 17-match winning streak set by its All Blacks predecessors from 1965 to 1969 and South Africa in 1997-98.
New Zealand started strongly but ill-discipline saw two players yellow carded by South African referee Jaco Peyper, allowing the Wallabies to get a foothold in the match, as it searched for only its third win against the All Blacks in the past 20 matches.
Saturday’s draw was the second deadlocked match between the trans-Tasman rivals in the past two years, after an 18-18 draw in Brisbane in 2012.
“It feels a bit like a loss,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said. “To get that pressure there at the end and to get the chance but not come out on top, guys in the changing room are a bit down.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen found the positives in his team’s performance after playing a quarter of the match with a man short, after referee Peyper sent first Wyatt Crockett, then Beauden Barrett to the sin bin.
“When you’re playing one of the best sides in the world, with only 14 men for 20 minutes it’s hard work,” said Hansen.
“We did defend for long periods of time and showed a lot of heart, a lot of courage and I think a lot of other teams would have crumpled under the pressure we were under.”
New Zealand opened the scoring in the 3rd minute with a successful penalty attempt by Cruden after Wallabies flanker Scott Fardy had infringed at the ruck.
Moments later the All Blacks had its best try-scoring chance after Richie McCaw and Ben Smith combined to pilfer the ball near halfway, but Aaron Smith was pulled down within meters of the try line.
After 10 minutes the Wallabies finally found possession in New Zealand’s half and were rewarded with a penalty after Jerome Kaino’s ruck indiscretion. Despite the slippery surface Beale expertly guided the ball between the posts from 40 metres to level the scores.
After a penalty attempt miss, Cruden received another chance moments later which he converted for a 6-3 lead for the All Blacks.
In the 21st minute the referee gave the All Blacks a penalty after he adjudged the Wallabies had collapsed a scrum. Cruden was again on target from 35 metres to extend the lead.
Australia finally maintained some pressure on New Zealand late in the first half which led to Crockett receiving a yellow card for being in an offside position twice in quick succession.
After a brief foray at the try-line, Australia was awarded another penalty after the halftime siren, but Beale’s attempt deflected off the post and away to leave the hosts trailing 9-3 at the break.
Australia started the second half brightly with Matt Toomua and Hooper making half breaks to push the short-handed All Blacks deep into its own territory. Another offside penalty in the 44th allowed Beale to narrow the score to 9-6.
Australia continued to threaten and was rewarded with another penalty after Cory Jane was spotted ahead of Cruden’s clearing kick. Beale converted from next to the posts to level the scores at 9-9.
The deadlock lasted only four minutes before Cruden again fired the All Blacks ahead with a well-taken shot from wide on the left in the 59th.
Just past the hour mark, Pat McCabe appeared certain to score in the corner after the Wallabies had engineered a gap in the visitors’ defence only for a brilliant tackle from Ryan Crotty and Julian Savea to deny the winger.
Australia continued to press and had late attacking opportunities after substitute Beauden Barrett was sin binned for delaying the ball at the ruck, but the Wallabies lost the chance to land a winning blow and end a three-year drought against its rival.
New Zealand has held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and can retain the cup for another year with victory next week in Auckland.
“If you look over the past 11 years there hasn’t been too many easy games and even on the scoreboard we’ve got away with it,” said Hansen. “They haven’t been easy, they have been tough games and Auckland will be the same.”
“We’ll prepare accordingly and hopefully get the job done.”Report Typo/Error