Aus­tralia find their pride but All Blacks win an epic

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By BREN­DAN GAL­LAGHER

NEW Zealand and a re­ju­ve­nated Aus­tralia said farewell to Colin Meads by serv­ing up one of the great modern day Test matches in Dunedin – a match ap­pro­pri­ately won by a sen­sa­tional try from Beau­den Bar­rett with just a minute re­main­ing.

The en­tire game, which started with a tribute to All Black great Meads who died last week, show­cased the very best of South­ern Hemi­sphere rugby. There were five tries apiece but this was no basketball-style Su­per Rugby jam­boree, the tack­ling was fe­ro­cious and the phys­i­cal­ity im­mense. There was plenty of snarl and bite and ev­ery try had to be earned through in­di­vid­ual or col­lec­tive bril­liance

We ex­pect – per­haps un­rea­son­ably – such vir­tu­os­ity week in week out from New Zealand but the rev­e­la­tion in the ‘House of Pain’ last night was the su­perla­tive per­for­mance from Aus­tralia just seven days af­ter ship­ping 54 points in the first 48 min­utes of their game against the All Blacks in Syd­ney.

Not only did they bounce back mag­nif­i­cently in terms of phys­i­cal­ity and courage – you would hope for that given their proud her­itage – they also con­tin­ued to be­lieve in their skills and cre­ativ­ity. The re­sult was one of the most im­pres­sive de­feats in rugby his­tory.

In truth the fight back ac­tu­ally started in Syd­ney when the Aussies dug deep in the sec­ond half and some­how man­aged to score the last four tries of the game to give the Wal­la­bies a smidgen of re­spectabil­ity and mo­men­tum as they crossed the Tas­man Sea.

They were rather more than con­so­la­tion tries, the man­ner of their scor­ing pointed the way for­ward. The best form of de­fence for this Aus­tralian side in par­tic­u­lar is at­tack.

They were helped in that process yes­ter­day by the en­cour­age­ment of an in­ter­cep­tion try by Izzy Fo­lau af­ter just 25 sec­onds with the Aussie full-back latch­ing onto a well tele­graphed long ball from Damian Mcken­zie to sprint 60 yards up­field.

Bernard Fo­ley missed a non-too dif­fi­cult con­ver­sion and, alas, for the Wal­la­bies fly-half that set the tone for his evening. But for a very av­er­age goalk­ing night from Fo­ley – three missed con­ver­sions and a penalty – Aus­tralia could have been cel­e­brat­ing one of the most fa­mous vic­to­ries in their his­tory.

Not that it stopped Aus­tralia mak­ing hay in the first quar­ter as their cup over-run­neth. First skip­per Michael Hooper ex­ploded out of a maul from a line- out to score an un­ex­pect­edly easy try – Fo­ley did add the ex­tras for that one – and then Fo­ley scored a cracker him­self af­ter good work from Kurt­ley Beale.

Re­mark­ably, at 17-0 up af­ter 15 min­utes, Aus­tralia had scored 45 unan­swered points in their last 45 min­utes of rugby against New Zealand, a tidal wave of seven straight tries that must be un­prece­dented in All Blacks his­tory.

Of course it couldn’t last and go­ing into the sec­ond quar­ter New Zealand fi­nal-

ly got their show on the road with a well-taken try un­der the posts by Reiko Ioane courtesy of a nice nolook in­side pass from Aaron Smith – and as half­time ap­proached they pressed hard for a sec­ond.

Ben Smith had a scored un­der the posts dis­al­lowed af­ter los­ing con­trol as he went to ex­ert down­ward pres­sure, but Aaron Smith darted over from the re­sult­ing scrum to nar­row the deficit to three points go­ing down the tun­nel.

As a re­mark­able game built to a crescendo the nar­ra­tive of the sec­ond half was re­morse­less All Blacks pres­sure coun­tered by in­cred­i­ble snip­ing counter at­tacks from Aus­tralia.

It took un­til the hour for New Zealand to pull ahead with a well-taken blind­side try from Beau­den Bar­rett. That, how­ever, was coun­tered by one of the tries of the sea­son from Will Ge­nia who han­dled three times in a 22 phase counter at­tack deep in the Aus­tralian half be­fore mak­ing an­other de­ci­sive con­tri­bu­tion and sprint­ing to the line.

New Zealand re­sponded with a top drawer try of their own also fea­tur­ing 21 phases be­fore Ben Smith rounded off the move­ment and Bar­rett con­verted. At 28-22 and with the wind in their sails only one re­sult seemed pos­si­ble, but Aus­tralia coura­geously moved up­field.

They pa­tiently laid siege to the New Zealand line be­fore Beale, en­joy­ing one of his best games in the gold, pounced at the op­ti­mum time to score un­der the posts for Fo­ley to con­vert. Less than three min­utes left and Aus­tralia were lead­ing by one point. If they could just re­gather the restart...

It was a big ‘if ’ and Kieran Read knew it was time to go for broke. He sprinted hard in pur­suit of Bar­rett’s restart and got an out­stretched hand to the ball to de­flect it back. New Zealand were on the at­tack again, first build­ing pa­tiently and then at­tack­ing and han­dling su­perbly to work Bar­rett away for the match win­ning score.

As Read ex­plained: “I said to Bar­rett just put the ball on the money and I’ll chase it and try and get it back. That’s what hap­pened and it was just a case of us play­ing once we won that ball and hav­ing a crack and it came off.”

Wal­laby coach Michel Cheika said: “The gal­lant loser thing is not on, we should have won. The last bit, that three min­utes...we should have just shot that ball out, and got a hold of it and kept it at all costs.”

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

What a fin­ish: Beau­den Bar­rett runs in the win­ning try

Wal­la­bies hope: Will Ge­nia scores late on

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