An inaccurate All Blacks side has had the Rugby Championship ripped from their grasp by the Wallabies during a dramatic test match in Sydney.
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies also have one hand on the Bledisloe Cup after their 27-19 win at ANZ Stadium gave the All Blacks a pre-World Cup wake up call.
There were two tries to debut wing Nehe Milner-Skudder but not much else for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to celebrate after his side were out-muscled and out scored, three tries to two, in front of 73,824 fans. It was Australia’s first Rugby Championship title since 2011 and a resounding success for coach Cheika’s bold decision to play dual opensides David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
Both were influential in thwarting the All Blacks’ attack. Pocock got the turnovers and Hooper did the tackling, several of his low missiles coming at crucial junctures. The All Blacks were simply not accurate enough with ball in hand or at the ruck where the problems of Johannesburg were present again, the Wallabies beating them to the punch as they attacked the ball at the tackle.
Some key All Blacks were uncharacteristically out of sorts. Aaron Smith was one, his odd bobble on the sideline leading to opposite Nic White dummying his way through with eight minutes to play for the match winner. White played a hero’s roll after replacing out of sorts Nick Phipps with 20 minutes to play, kicking a long range penalty to regain the lead in the 69th minute, then scoring his decisive try. Sonny Bill Williams was another to have a lacklustre night with two strange kicks, while the scrum was also shunted around with worrying ease.
The Wallabies backed themselves to run over the top of the All Blacks in the final quarter and did just that after trailing 14-10 with 20 minutes to play. Big lock Will Skelton came on with Matt Toomua, who put a perfect grubber to the corner for wing Adam Ashley-Cooper to score as the home side sniffed the win.
The All Blacks responded when Beauden Barrett’s soft hands set Milner-Skudder free for his brace, but White grabbed back the lead immediately, the fifth time it had changed during the match and then sealed the deal with his late try.
Hansen might have felt confident with 25 minutes to play when first five Dan Carter took on the line, slid half way through a gap then popped a short ball to fullback Ben Smith, who broke free and drew the last defender to put Milner-Skudder over for his first test try. Carter’s conversion missed but the All Blacks had a hard earned lead at 15-14 and would have backed themselves to come home with a wet sail.
MARK KOLBE/GETTY IMAGES
Nehe Milner-Skudder of the All Blacks celebrates with captain Richie McCaw after scoring.
The All Blacks had survived a tough start to the second half. First Aaron Smith was sinbinned for a clumsy cover tackle that clipped Ashley-Cooper on the chin. Then prop Sekope Kepu burst past Kieran Read and through Dane Coles to give the Wallabies their first lead of the night and at 10-6.
The All Blacks appeared to have a secret weapon in Phipps, who capped an awful night when he was sinbinned himself for interfering with Conrad Smith from a tap penalty. The All Blacks seized their chance and regained the lead but couldn’t finish.The Wallabies responded via Ashley Cooper who was on the end of Toomua’s grubber and kept coming to the end.
The first half was a willing, but messy affair from start to finish. Lock Brodie Retallick dropped the kick off and the handling bug spread through both sides, prop Owen Franks taking a pass to the face before being subbed early for Nepo Laulala.
The All Blacks’ ball runners were strong, Jerome Kaino and McCaw straightening the attack early, but, as was the case in Johannesburg, ball retention was proving an issue. It was in part because Pocock was making a nuisance of himself with two turnovers won in the opening few minutes.
However, it was also because the All Blacks’ clean out was arriving a second too late, promising breaks by Milner-Skudder, McCaw and Kaino all coming to nothing.
Milner-Skudder looked full of running, breaking the line twice, but unfortunately barely saw the ball for most of the first half.
Kepu was sinbinned early but the All Blacks couldn’t capitalise despite a wonky Australian lineout and Phipps errant passing.
Wallabies 27 (Sekope Kepu, Adam Ashley Cooper, Nic White tries, Matt Giteau pen, 2 con, White con, pen) All Blacks 19 (Nehe Milner Skudder 2 tries, Dan Carter 3 pen). HT: 6-3
Leave a Reply