'We're certainly not celebrating in the dressing-rooms': Wallabies left 'disappointed' after incredible draw against All Blacks

International
by Christy Doran

The Wallabies' quest to break their 19-year hoodoo against the All Blacks in New Zealand remains after an extraordinary 16-16 draw at Wellington's Sky Stadium.

Wallabies utility Reece Hodge had the chance to win the match for the visitors in the 83rd minute, but his cannon of a right-boot from 53 metres out struck the right-hand upright.

Incredibly, however, the Wallabies regathered the ball and went for a match-winning try. It proved to be the wrong decision as they lost the ball instead of attempting a field goal from right in front of the posts.

Frustratingly, too, the Wallabies will be filthy that some hands in the ruck from the All Blacks, which led to the turnover, was missed by local referee Paul Williams.

"James O'Connor dropped back, but I'm not sure what happened there around communication but we ended up going a bit wider and turned it over; opportunity lost obviously," Wallabies coach Dave Rennie reflected in his post-match press conference.

The All Blacks then had the chance to rub salt into the wound as they battered the Wallabies' line, having been awarded consecutive penalties to work their way up to the opposition line. But they too refused to drop over a field goal from straight in front of the posts.

In the end it was left to O'Connor to kick the ball out into the Wellington stands in the 88th minute, thereby ending one of the most dramatic Bledisloe Tests this century and the first trans-Tasman draw since 1962.

"That was wild at the end," reflected Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper after his 100th Test.

"There was four seasons in that game at the end."

While the result would have surprised many, the Wallabies weren't content with simply coming away with a draw.

"We're disappointed," Rennie, who two decades earlier announced his arrival as a coach by leading Wellington to a title, said in his post-match press conference.

"We're certainly not celebrating in the changerooms."

The Wallabies fought their way back from 13-3 down after 50 minutes through tries to explosive wingers Marika Koroibete and Filipo Daugunu to take a 16-13 lead when O'Connor banged over a penalty from 35 metres out.

But Jordie Barrett's own three-pointer with 90 seconds left leveled up the scores.

Neither side was content to walk away from Wellington with just a draw, but that's how it ended.

"We had our chances," Rennie said.

"I thought we played with a lot of courage."

But for all the courage in the world, the Wallabies still lacked the precision required to win Tests against the All Blacks and were smashed at the breakdown.

A frustrated Rennie said the area was the difference between the two sides and said the Wallabies needed to fix the breakdown ahead of next Sunday's Bledisloe rematch at Eden Park. 

"We're miles away from where we need to be," Rennie said.

"We let ourselves down. 

"We found a lot of space in behind them, we had a lot of ball but the quality of our cleanout just wasn't good enough and it's area we need to be better next week. We gave away 14 penalties and a big chunk of those were post-tackle."

While the Wallabies will undoubtedly be left thinking "what could have been", it was one of the most inspired performances in years.

Debutant Daugunu was one of the Wallabies' best on both sides of the ball, halfback Nic White proved his doubters wrong by perfectly balancing his game between running and kicking while Taniela Tupou and first-cap back-rower Harry Wilson were also excellent.

Earlier, the match started in controversial fashion as a foot into touch from Rieko Ioane went unsighted in the lead up to Barrett's opening try in the eighth minute. Making the blunder even worse, it was Australian touch official Angus Gardner that missed Ioane's pink shoe hitting the white chalk after the All Blacks countered from a Tom Banks kick that failed to find touch.

Barrett then extended the All Blacks' lead to 8-0 after a penalty in the 26th minute.

The Wallabies eventually got on the scoreboard when O'Connor slotted his first penalty in the 30th minute.

Ioane then was in the headlines again, as the outside centre blew a golden opportunity to extend the home side's lead on the stroke of half time as he bounced the ball in the process of grounding it. It was a comical mistake that followed a nightmare blunder from Wallabies hooker Folau Fainga'a from a set-piece play inside the All Blacks' own half.

Ian Foster - coaching the All Blacks for the first time in eight years after an eight-year apprentice under Steve Hansen as his assistant - would have breathed a giant sigh of relief though when halfback Aaron Smith scored to open up a 13-3 lead after 43 minutes.

But the Wallabies refused to go away.

On the back of some probing from White, the Wallabies made their way into the All Blacks' half and came away with their first try in the 52nd minute as Koroibete expertly finished off a try after bursting onto a good ball from O'Connor.

Ten minutes later the Wallabies were level after finally getting some luck, as Daugunu showed the awareness to pounce onto a loose ball and score just inside the field of play after the All Blacks stripped the ball on the deck following Matt Philip's strong surge inside the home side's 22m line.

Both sides traded late penalties.

But the Wallabies couldn't land the match-winner, thereby blowing their chance to claim their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.

AT A GLANCE

ALL BLACKS 16 (Barrett, Smith tries; Barrett pen 2) drew with WALLABIES 16 (Koroibete, Daugunu tries; O'Connor pen 2)