Australia’s Barbarians have notched a Tri-Nations win, edging out Fiji, 21-20, in a heartstopping encounter.
After leading by as many as eight points midway through the second half, the Barbarians lost their advantage with four minutes to go, after a Peni Tuinalaba penalty.
Where Australia had missed their early chances to extend their lead, Tuinalaba had no problem with his three-pointer in the dying minutes, snatching back the lead for the visitors.
A missed penalty, after a late tackle by Lachlan Osborne, gave Barbarians what seemed like one last attacking chance.
But more than two minutes after the full-time, it was the Fijians ruing a conceded penalty right in front of the posts, and flyhalf Campbell Parata proved the ultimate home hero.
It was a frenetic start for the two teams and though the Barbarians had the early edge, but weren’t able to come away with points, making some handling errors at critical points.
After eschewing their first chance at the sticks, the Barbarians banked the three points seven minutes into the clash to open their scoring.
It was Fiji who found the line first, putting pressure on the Barbarians in their first chance, with tighthead Peni Kunabuli.
The Fijians were over again in the 16th minute, and the Barbarians found themselves in dangerous penalty territory, warned by the referee after a series of infringements.
Australia hit back, though, in spectacular fashion with halfback Dylan Dowling escaping the grasp of a Fijian defender and speeding away for the score.
Fiji peppered the Australian line but were held back by some desperate defence and when the Barbarians and their own moment they finished, through a pirouetting Brody MacAskill.
The Australians had a disastrous start to the second half, with no. 8 Luca Moretti yellow-carded for a lifting tackle, a low point in what was an influential performance from the backrower.
Fiji had their own issues with discipline, giving the home side the chance to bank some more points despite being a man down.
Australia’s on-field dominance was asserted in scrums as the match went on, replacement prop Moses Alo-Emile effective, alongside versatile front rower Egan Siggs.
FIji dominated possession as the second half ticked on, forcing the Barbarians to defend for the better part of 10 minutes, with the Australians showing their grit in the process.
Australia's forwards had an impact, with Max Douglas and backrower Wyll Holland showing their defensive desperation throughout the game.
Eventually Fiji’s territory paid off, with replacement forward Napolioni Kurisigia finishing off some well-timed offloads to narrow the margin to just one point with 13 minutes left.
A desperate flick back from Viliami Lea just inside the touchline put the heat directly on the Aussies once more, but their defence stood up again.
The Barbarians were their own worst enemy at times, but it was ultimately a Fiji mistake that gave Parata the match-winner.
Australia Barbarians 21
Tries: Dowling, MacAskill
Cons: Parata 2
Pens: Parata 3
Yellow cards: Moretti (37’)
Tries: Kunabuli, Tuwai, Kurisigia