Australia and New Zealand couldn’t be separated in a wet slugfest of a game in Sydney, battering each other into a 12-12 draw.
This was the second time in less than two years that these two sides have finished all square, after an 18-18 draw in Brisbane in October 2012.
Once again, in a cruel twist, the All Blacks missed out on the 18-game winning record thanks to a draw, only the seventh ever in 150 Bledisloe matches. Six of those have come in Australia.
Kurtley Beale and Aaron Cruden both landed four penalties each, with New Zealand spending 20 minutes down to 14 men after yellow cards for Wyatt Crockett and Beauden Barrett.
The whistle of referee Jaco Peyper dominated proceedings in a manner that will have frustrated many, with some of his decisions up for debate on a tough night for officials.
Surprisingly given Australia’s struggles in the first half the scores were level as full-time approached, in a frantic finish with the All Blacks down to 14 men.
Neither side truly touched their highest level; disappointing given the build-up to the occasion but the weather was a monumental hinderance.
Pre-game showers aren’t uncommon but this was more like a neverending bucket being tipped out of the sky onto the Olympic Stadium.
Conditions therefore were always going to be difficult, even for these two sides regarded as the best attacking outfits in world rugby who enjoyed the chance to perfect their sliding technique around the Sydney turf.
There was no shortage of blood spilled though, with Israel Folau and Brodie Retallick noticeably sporting plenty of claret.
The pace of the game though didn’t suffer, nor did the physicality as Folau clattered his way through Jerome Kaino. With a score to settle, Kaino’s thumping tackle on Beale was a decent reprieve.
New Zealand seemed to execute all the small details that little bit better early on. Winning the favour of the officials at the scrum, with their kicking, the defence, breakdown – they more or less emerged on top in every category on the scoring card in the opening half.
Their power defensively and intensity to keep the Wallabies out shown by the All Blacks was crucial.
So much had been made about Kurtley Beale’s selection; was it politics? Or a double bluff involving Matt Toomua? Whatever Ewen McKenzie’s masterplan was, it failed to manifest itself clearly for all to see.
Basic penalties – running in front of the kicker, trying to play the ball after the tackle was made – undid any progress early on as New Zealand built up a lead.
Trying to play wide and force opportunities too early, with the Australian back three subdued, was another major error from the home side given the conditions. Nic White’s box kicks were charged down consecutively and with worrying ease, in a poor game from the Brumbies scrum-half.
Still, the Wallabies only trailed 9-3 counting down towards half-time. A semblance of hope, perhaps a little lucky as the All Blacks failed to capitalise on all of their territory.
Hearing a sharp blast of Peyper’s whistle after only 15 minutes is never a good sign, as Aaron Cruden converted two penalties left another out wide to the right.
Beale countered with a long-range penalty of his own and the Wallabies were left sat on three points for most of the first half until the final moments, when Crockett was sent to the bin.
Michael Hooper’s high-risk gambles were madness, turning down kickable penalties for scrums in conditions where a more pragmatic approach was needed. The fact that Beale missed from a harsher angle when Australia did go for the posts was fitting.
Australia’s best passage of play after half-time did produce three points from a Beale penalty, cutting the score to 6-9, for some rare points as passes went loose. One of White’s best kicks, one that trickled towards the corner, had Julian Savea under pressure and ended with another three from Beale to tie things up.
Another poor kick from White handed the All Blacks a chance to counter-attack, Cruden curling in his fourth penalty to restore New Zealand’s lead.
It took outstanding defence to keep out Pat McCabe in the corner, huge tackles stopping drives from Folau and Sam Carter before the ball went wide.
Barrett’s sin-binning for cynical play helped Beale level things up again with his fourth penalty to set up the tense finish, and the very real possibility of a draw.
So it duly finished, the All Blacks missing out on the world record as these two couldn’t be separated. One to forget in the grand history of matches between these two, but a massive chance missed for the Wallabies in the end.
Man of the Match: Lots of big innings, but the effort of Nathan Charles especially caught the eye.
Moment of the Match: Forcing their attack wide a little early when straightening may have made more space, Pat McCabe was easily bundled into touch. Crucial.
Villain of the Match: Peyper’s interpretation of the scrum was quizzable, but the atrocious conditions destroyed the spectacle.
Pens: Beale 4
For New Zealand:
Pens: Cruden 4
Yellow Cards: Crockett, Barrett
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Malakai Fekitoa/Ryan Crotty, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa/Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite, Stuart Berry
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
- Planet Rugby