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Late Barrett try breaks Aussie hearts in Bledisloe thriller
A late Beauden Barrett try saw New Zealand retain the Bledisloe Cup as they came from behind in a thrilling match in Dunedin.
Fresh from a chastening 54-34 defeat to the All Blacks in Sydney, many people were expecting a similar outcome when the two sides renewed battle at the Forysth Barr Stadium.
In a thrilling contest that ebbed and flowed throughout New Zealand recovered from an early 17-0 deficit to take the lead for the first time in the match after an hour.
Tries from Will Genia and Kurtley Beale either side of a Ben Smith try looked to have given Australia their first victory in New Zealand since 2001, only for Beauden Barrett to go over late on and maintain the All Blacks’ stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup.
Off the back of a heavy defeat in Sydney, Australia arrived in Dunedin desperate for revenge and got off to the perfect start as Israel Folau intercepted a Damian McKenzie pass to run in for a try from his own half in the first minute of the match, with Bernard Foley missing the subsequent conversion.
With New Zealand responding with a sustained spell of pressure in attack the Aussie defence did well to withstand their hosts’ pressure – showing a much greater defensive effort than they did the week before – before increasing their lead as captain Michael Hooper came away from a driving maul before wriggling out of the tackle of Kieran Read to dive over for a try converted by Foley.
Just five minutes later and it was 17-0 as expert work from Aussie scrum-half Genia saw the No.9 somehow manage to retrieve the ball from a retreating Wallabies scrum before surging through a gap in the New Zealand defence to release Hooper who in turn gave the ball to fly-half Foley who ran in for the score, though missed the resulting conversion as his effort hit the post.
Rattled, New Zealand soon hit back as Rieko Ioane came off the shoulder of a driving maul to charge over from close range, with Barrett’s conversion reducing the visitors lead to ten points.
Having already missed two conversions, Foley’s goal-kicking was beginning to become something of an issue for the Wallabies, and things did not get any better for the Waratahs man as his penalty effort came back off the post and fell invitingly close to the try-line only for team-mate Henry Speight to knock the ball on.
Having ridden their luck a few times, the hosts responded with a lengthy spell of attacking pressure.
With Ben Smith having a try-scoring effort correctly ruled out having just dropped the ball before grounding, New Zealand’s pressure finally told on the stroke of half-time as Aaron Smith dived over from close-range following a strong All Blacks scrum.
A frantic start to the second-half with both teams attacking at will eventually calmed down, as New Zealand grew in confidence and started to dominate possession and territory with lock forward Brodie Retallick thinking he had gone over for a try from an All Blacks driving maul. Despite initially awarding the try referee Nigel Owens then went upstairs to check the score and with no clear evidence that the ball had been grounded, the try wasn’t given.
Despite this disappointment, the hosts soon hit back to take the lead for the first time in the match as Beauden Barrett received the ball on the blindise from a scrum and forced his way over from close range, before adding the extras from the kicking tee.
With Australia now four points down going into the final quarter, the Wallabies would have to dig deep to get back in the contest and following good work from the forward pack in pushing deep into New Zealand’s half, the excellent Will Genia showed his sharpness as he spotted a gap and sprinted clear of All Blacks full-back McKenzie to restore Australia’s lead.
New Zealand were once again let off the hook as Foley missed yet another conversion, and the hosts made the Australian No.10 pay for his inaccuracy as Ben Smith scored a try following good work from team-mates Ioane and McKenzie.
With just over eight minutes to go and New Zealand leading by six points, many within the Dundedin crowd thought that that would be that, only for New Zealand to concede a penalty in their own half.
Australian replacement Reece Hodge’s impressive kick gave the Wallabies a 5m lineout and having caught and worked their way into position through a number of phases, scrum-half Genia released centre Beale to charge over underneath the posts with Foley converting to push Cheika’s side one point clear going into the final three minutes.
With the clock ticking down all the Wallabies had to do was collect the kick-off and wind the clock down to seal a long overdue victory on New Zealand soil, but having struggled to regain possession from kick-off all night an inspired piece of play from All Blacks skipper Read saw New Zealand get hold of the ball inside the Australian half.
As New Zealand worked their way across field, the Australian defence looked solid enough to hold them out before that man Read popped up again to break the gain-line, before some sublime handling from him and TJ Perenara released Barrett to run in unopposed and seal a remarkable win for the world champions.
With the Bledisloe Cup wrapped up New Zealand can now look forward to the challenge of Argentina in the next round of fixtures, although coach Steve Hansen will know his side must do better having ridden their luck over the past two weeks in defence particularly.
A much improved effort from the Australians, who showed great character in the second-half to keep coming back, although Bernard Foley will be bitterly disappointed with the nine points missed from the kicking tee proving crucial in the overall result.
Cheika’s side will now go on to face a resurgent Springboks side, but there are a number of positives to take in to that match. Scrum-half Will Genia looked back to his marauding best with his running game proving too strong for the New Zealand defence, whilst Sean McMahon produced one of his best performances in the Green and Gold jersey contributing heavily in defence and attack.
Springboks too strong for Pumas in Salta
A try-brace from flanker Siya Kolisi saw Allister Coetzee’s South Africa side maintain their 100% start to the Rugby Championship campaign with a convining 41-23 victory over Argentina.
In another thoroughly entertaining game of rugby the Springboks out-scored their hosts with five tries to Argentina’s two in a performance that will have many South Africans hopeful that the Springboks swagger of old is returning.
Having gone down to the same opponents the previous week in Port Elizabeth, Daniel Hourcade’s Argentina side were desperate to get their rugby championship campaign up and running in front of their own fans.
The home side got off to a good early start that saw an Emiliano Boffelli penalty put the first points on the board, only for Pumas forward Tomas Lavaninni to undo that promising start by receiving a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Despite surviving the sin-binning period unscathed on the scoreboard, South Africa opened the try-scoring twenty minutes into the match, as Jessie Kriel collected Elton Jantjes’ expert kick over the top before releasing Siya Kolisi to run in and score for the second week running.
A Jantjes penalty extended South Africa’s lead to seven points but from the ensuing restart sloppy play from the Springboks saw Ramiro Moyano collect a bouncing ball and cross over for his side’s opening try which was duly converted by Juan Martin Hernandez to level the score.
From there on it looked as if the two sides would go in all square at the interval but just before half-time Argentina received their second yellow-card of the match with Juan Manuel Leguizamon going to the bin. South Africa then punished the Pumas even further with fly-half Elton Jantjes showing impressive footwork before stretching over to score the try having been brought down just short of the line by Argentinian defenders.
With Jantjes stepping up to convert his own try, South Africa went into the second-half with a slender 17-10 lead that was soon reduced as Hernandez struck a penalty over for the hosts.
However with Leguizamon still in the bin, the visitors pulled further clear as an excellent counter-attack from underneath their own goal-posts resulted in flanker Kolisi scoring his second try, with Jantjes once again adding the extras from the kicking tee.
With the match approaching the hour mark the Pumas were really struggling to contain the Springboks power and with South Africa having put themselves in position out wide with men over, Tomas Lavaninni threw out a hand in desperation and defelcted the ball away. With a couple of South Africans out wide poised to catch the ball referee Jerome Garces had no option but to yellow card Lavaninni for the second time in the match and award a penalty try to the visitors.
With Lavaninni’s two yellows adding up to red, Argentina were now forced to play the remaining twenty minutes a man down and 18 points behind on the scoreboard, although the hosts soon hit back with a score of their own.
With South African full-back Andries Coetzee failing to collect an up-and-under from opposite number Joaquin Tuculet, Argentinain scrum-half Martin Landajo kicked the ball through before passing to Matias Moroni to score, with Coetzee receiving a yellow card shortly after for a late hit.
The conversion from Nicolas Sanchez and another penalty from Boffelli soon cut the Springboks lead to eight points with a little under a quarter of the match to go.
The impressive Jantjes settled South African nerves putting over another penalty before substitute Juan-Luc du Preez wrapped up the win with a late try converted by Jantjes to seal a deserved 41-23 victory for Allister Coetzee’s men.
Having got their campaign up and running with back-to-back bonus point wins and nine tries scored in the process, the Springboks will now travel to Australia in round three high on confidence and with the likes of Siya Kolisi and Elton Jantjes in this type of form they will take some stopping.
After a difficult opening two rounds, Argentina face the ominous task of overcoming New Zealand in their own back-yard and will need to improve upon their poor discipline that cost them so dearly in Salta. Despite this scoring four tries in two matches where they were second best for large periods suggests that they have the ability to cause the All Blacks problems in attack.
Player of the Week – Elton Jantjes
There were strong showings from Australian duo Genia and McMahon whilst Siya Kolisi impressed once again for South Africa, but Springboks fly-half Jantjes was the outstanding performer in Round Two.
South Africa’s No.10 marshalled his pack well throughout, was instrumental in attack where he set up the first try before scoring another and was accurate as ever from the kicking tee adding 14 points with the boot to keep the Pumas at bay.
An exciting playmaker developing into a top-class international 10.