All Blacks repel rousing Wallabies challenge for come-from-behind victory
Richie Mo’unga booted a penalty in the last minute to lift the All Blacks to a 23-20 comeback win over Australia as the New Zealand continued its perfect start to the season in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Trailing 17-3 at halftime, the All Blacks’ 22-year winning streak against the Wallabies on home soil was in peril after the visitors dominated early at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
But tries to debutantes Shaun Stevenson and Samipeni Finau saw New Zealand storm back into the game, before Mo’unga sealed the win with a well-taken kick from a tight angle.
Yeah, absolutely gutted. Obviously not happy with it, but from where we were last week to where we are now a massive step up. A huge improvement,” said Wallabies captain Tate McDermott.
Australia had made a flying start, scoring two tries in the first seven minutes to take a 14-0 lead.
Quick hands put Marika Koroibete across in the third minute and Tom Hooper barged over at the same left corner after flattening Damian McKenzie in a thunderous run.
Both teams had early casualties, with Queensland Reds hooker Matt Faessler making his test debut for the Wallabies when Dave Porecki came off early for a head injury assessment.
Brodie Retallick was off the ground with an apparent knee problem in the 26th minute.
The All Blacks’ old guard stepped up in his absence, with Sam Whitelock and Ardie Savea combining to save a try when stand-in captain McDermott made a dart for the right corner.
A rare line-out failure by the hosts saw the Wallabies come off with a 14-point lead, having put together their best half of rugby since their last-gasp loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne a year ago.
It seemed inevitable that the All Blacks would find their range sooner or later, and so it proved as quick hands put Stevenson over at the right corner four minutes after the restart.
The Wallabies caught a break when winger Leicester Fainga’anuku failed to ground the ball in the 55th minute but Mo’unga slotted a penalty to trim the deficit to four points.
Finau then snatched the lead for the hosts 11 minutes later as he pushed a swarm of tacklers under the post for the All Blacks’ second try.
The Wallabies were on the brink of collapse under the All Blacks’ pressure but Quade Cooper drilled a penalty from outside 50 metres to level the score at 20-20.
But with three minutes left, Cooper knocked the ball on to give the All Blacks the scrum.
They dominated the set-piece to win penalty advantage, allowing Mo’unga his final kick.
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