A special performance from All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga has powered New Zealand to a 33-25 victory in Bledisloe 1 – but there were some positives to draw from the performance for the Wallabies.
The visitors stuck with the heavily-favoured hosts for much of the first half and actually scored the first try. They were also able to score the last three tries and put serious pressure on the New Zealand defence in the closing stages.
Ultimately, however, they were left to rue a crucial All Blacks try on half time and a 25-minute period in the second half were they offered little resistance to the offensive might of the New Zealanders.
Noah Lolesio was also left to rue a poor night with the boot – finishing with just two goals from seven kicks, costing 15 points.
It was a fairly error-riddled beginning, with heavy wind causing both sides to make sloppy errors. The All Blacks gave away three early penalties, but the Wallabies responded almost immediately each time with a handling error – including two lost lineouts.
A third error from a lineout close to the nine-minute mark gave the hosts the first multi-phase possession of the game – but they knocked it on soon afterwards.
The stop-start game continued for virtually all of the first 18 minutes. Neither side was able get a good turn with the ball in hand, but the All Blacks continued to inch closer to the Wallaby line and eventually got a penalty in points territory.
Richie Mo’unga nailed the difficult 47-metre kick to get the scoring underway.
Tom Banks copped an almighty falcon off a long kick soon afterwards and that opened the door for the All Blacks again. Another penalty – this time from a much easier spot – allowed Mo’unga to double New Zealand’s advantage.
Some deft hands from Noah Lolesio released Andrew Kellaway down the right wing a few minutes later, with the Wallabies able to force the All Blacks into a goal-line drop-out.
Australia had the chance to halve the deficit from a penalty on the ensuing possession, but Lolesio’s kick was pulled right by the tricky wind.
Mo’unga made the miss hurt even more with another successful penalty kick before on the half-hour mark.
Despite the margin growing, the Wallabies didn’t break and finally got themselves on the board with a Lolesio kick.
At the 37-minute mark, they did even better by scoring the first try of the game against all odds. The Wallabies tricked the All Blacks with a splendid long lineout throw well over the packs. Hunter Paisami split the defence, before sending a great ball to Andrew Kellaway who crossed in his first Bledisloe Test.
They were unable to take the lead, however, with Lolesio’s conversion attempt – from pretty much exactly where he took his first penalty kick – missing to the right again.
The All Blacks made them pay on the stroke of half time, however. They bravely elected not to take the points after being awarded the penalty inside attacking territory and were rewarded after Sevu Reece burrowed through a ruck on the goal-line to score.
New Zealand thought they’d started the second half with a try for the ages, but a review found a clear forward pass in the build-up – keeping the Wallabies in the hunt.
But it didn’t last long.
Lolesio missed yet another kick – this one being a very difficult one from 50 out – before Richie Mo’unga intercepted an errant pass a few minutes later, running up the sideline to break the game wide open.
“Mo’unga broke Australian hearts,” said Andrew Mehrtens on the Stan Sport commentary.
“The bullet pass in was a good option, there was space there for Australia, but Mo’unga had also seen it. Great to clutch at that, control it and then go all the way. We know how good he is.”
“He was free to do that on the back of some excellent defence and presusure at the breakdown from the All Blacks,” added Morgan Turinui.
“The 14 other men filling the field with their black jerseys gives him the chance to chance his arm. That’s a huge moment in this game.”
The All Blacks were over the line again soon after, with an outrageously good pass from Aaron Smith finding David Havili on the sideline – who did well to finish it off under pressure.
Damian McKenzie joined in on the fun just six minutes later, with the Wallabies relenting under serious pressure from the All Black forwards.
The Wallabies finally managed to mount some sustained pressure on the New Zealand try-line and, despite some excellent defending from the home side, a great ball from Len Ikitau to Tom Banks got the fullback over the line.
The faint pulse soon became a pumping heartbeat after that. Australia finally found their skills inside the last ten minutes, with Banks nabbing his second try after cleverly kicking the ball along the ground twice before pouncing over the line.
The Wallabies continued their positive play from that point and, although the result was beyond doubt, they were obviously keen to use the dying minutes to build momentum ahead of next week’s crucial clash at the same venue.
Jordan Uelese was able to barrel over the line past three All Black defenders after the 80th minute to give the visitors something to celebrate at full time.
Wallabies – 25
All Blacks – 33
Wallabies: Andrew Kellaway (37′), Tom Banks (69′, 75′), Jordan Uelese (80′)
All Blacks: Sevu Reece (40′), Richie Mo’unga (50′), David Havili (58′), Damian McKenzie (64′)
Wallabies: Noah Lolesio 1/4
All Blacks: Richie Mo’unga 2/4
Wallabies: Noah Lolesio 1/3 (32′)
All Blacks: Richie Mo’unga 3/3 (18′, 21′, 29′)