DUNEDIN, New Zealand, Aug 26 – Beauden Barrett saved New Zealand with a converted try less than two minutes from full-time as the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 35-29 in a cliff-hanger Test in Dunedin in Saturday.
In the frantic closing minutes the lead changed three times before Barrett sealed the deal and broke the hearts of an Australian side that had been widely written off before the game.
There were five tries apiece with the telling difference being Barrett sucessfully converting all five for the All Blacks while Bernard Foley landed only two for Australia.
But as much as Barrett secured the win, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen singled out Kieran Read for the way he won the restart after Kurtley Beale had put the Wallabies in front 29-28.
“We were fortunate to come out on the right side thanks to a lot of composure,” he said
“To be 17 points down and come back you’ve got to have good composure and to lose the lead again in the 74th minute a lot of sides would have chucked it in.
“But they didn’t and they got the rewards for it. (Read) really stood up in the last five minutes, took the kick off, made the break and that’s what you expect from your leader.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika believed poor decision making by the Wallabies at the death cost them the game.
“The gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it,” he said.
“There were things during the game that could have changed the course of it and then the last bit, those three mintues, we should have got hold of that ball and kept it at all costs.”
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.
– Flying start for Australia –
Australia, humiliated 54-34 in the first Test a week ago, made a flying start in Dunedin, scoring after just 26 seconds and they had three tries and an unanswered 17 points on the board after 16 minutes.
Working off a pack that had the Wallabies back-pedalling at scrum time, the All Blacks were intent on playing a high-paced, high-risk game but faced with a rushed defence it came with a high error count, including 10 turnovers in the first half.
But once they settled down and made the passes stick they began to make inroads.
Playing to honour the memory of national icon Colin Meads, who died last Sunday, the All Blacks had closed the gap to 17-14 at half-time but it took 20 minutes of the second half before they hit the front for the the first time.
– Bizarre start –
It was a bizarre start to the Test with the kick-off delayed 10 minutes because of problems re-adjusting the lights after they were dimmed during a pre-match tribute to Meads.
When play did get under way the All Blacks were immediately on attack and running at the Wallabies line with a two-man overlap when Israel Folau claimed a vital intercept and raced 80 metres to score.
Ten minutes later Michael Hooper broke from a lineout against a non-existent defence for the second try and the third came when Will Genia salvaged the ball from a scrum heading backwards and sent Foley over.
It was not until the end of the first quarter before the All Blacks registered their first points to Rieko Ioane and Aaron Smith narrowed the gap with their second try from another dominant scrum on half-time.
It took 20 minutes of the second half before the New Zealanders hit the lead for the first time when they turned down a close-range shot at goal in favour of a scrum where Aaron Smith ran blind and put Barrett over.
Genia responded for the Wallabies to lead 22-21 before Ben Smith — in his last game before taking a break for the rest of the year — restored the lead for the All Blacks with 10 minutes remaining.
In the countdown to the final whistle, Beale scored to put Australia back in front before Barrett scored the match winner for the All Blacks.