Australia 26 New Zealand 24
The final game of this year’s Bledisloe Cup series was played in Hong Kong on Saturday. Quite why this location was chosen I do not understand. The stadium was not full and I did not see many local faces. The pitch came up quite short of International Rugby standards, cutting up badly and making it hard for the forwards to ground their feet in the scrums. But despite that, an exciting, running game of Rugby ensued.
As has been their habit this season, the Wallabies took an early lead. Quade Cooper scored a try from a tapped penalty five metres out, after Kurtley Beale had missed two early, difficult, long distance penalties. The ball was worked wide from the penalty, taken just to the right of the posts and Cooper went over in the left corner. Matt Giteau took over kicking duties, but missed the resulting conversion attempt. In fact kicking was problem all day for the Wallabies until they turned to James O’Connor late on in the game.
Dan Carter then hit the post and missed another penalty as the Kiwis clawed back, so the kicking problems were not unique to Australia. Adam Ashley-Cooper took a ball at pace from a fast executed back line move in Australia‘s own half. He then found several gaps in the All Black defence and scored under the posts. Giteau made it a 12-0 lead with his only successful kick of the game.
From then on it was all New Zealand. Mealamu charged over, but could not ground the ball, as he was held up brilliantly by Kurtley Beale. However Cowan was able to burrow over from the resulting scrum and Carter converted to make it 12-7.
With continued pressure the All Blacks got the ball out wide to Corey Jane who charged over in the corner. Carter was successful again with the conversion and a 45 metre penalty, to take New Zealand into the lead 12-17 at half time.
Giteau skewed the kick off and Richie McCaw started an attack from half way, that resulted in Nonu beating the Australia defence for another converted Try that made the lead 12-24.
But Australia were not finished, Quade Cooper released Beale, who then fed Drew Mitchell to go over in the corner. The kicking duties were passed to James O’Connor and he converted from the far left of the field, even though there was barely room for his run up between the edge of the field and the advertising hoardings. 19-24
It seemed as though the Kiwis had held on for the win, until the dieing minutes when Alby Mathewson missed touch with a clearance and O’Connor found gaps in the crowded defence and went over in the right corner to even the score. He showed great nerve to convert his own Try and for the second time this season Australia won a game with the final kick of the match.
Australia broke a 10 game losing streak against the All Blacks and will now fly to Europe with confidence. They take on Wales in Cardiff next Saturday, while New Zealand take on England at Twickenham.