New Zealand pulled off a rousing second-half fightback as they came from behind to shatter Australia 19-14 in the historic first Bledisloe Cup match on neutral soil yesterday.
The world’s top team, who had already retained the trophy by taking a 2-1 series lead last month, trailed 9-14 at the break after Drew Mitchell’s double, but hit back with classy tries from Sitiveni Sivivatu and captain Richie McCaw.
New Zealand, who also clawed back a 10-point deficit in the last match in Brisbane, can now chase a five-nation Grand Slam as they head off for their European tour.
“There’s nothing between the two teams,” McCaw said. “Every inch you’ve got to fight hard for. Today was just the same as it’s always been.”
Australia stunned New Zealand with the first attack of the game after fly-half Stephen Donald’s slip put the All Blacks’ defense under pressure and debutant Hosea Gear turned it over on the left flank.
Wallabies pivot Matt Guiteau popped up a pass in the tackle to winger Mitchell, deputizing for the injured Lote Tuqiri, who barreled through two defenders and touched down by the posts with just five minutes gone.
Kiwi superstar Dan Carter, making a rare start at inside center, pulled back two penalties, but the New Zealand defense again looked shaky under pressure as Mitchell got his second with a simple touchdown on the left on 26 minutes.
Carter knocked one over from the halfway line to make it 14-9, as the All Blacks headed into the break without once testing the Australian line.
But they immediately hit back in the second half, as the ball went along the line to winger Sivivatu for a straightforward score on the left. With Carter missing the conversion, the scores were level at 14-14.
Coach Graham Henry replaced Donald with Na’a Nonu and returned Carter to his favored fly-half, and the All Blacks again attacked with intent as Nonu kicked through, only for Gear to knock the ball forward as he slid into the post.
New Zealand were suddenly flowing and Sivivatu found McCaw on the right with a looping cut-out pass as they took the lead for the first time 19-14 with 17 minutes left.
As the clock ticked down, Guiteau missed a penalty kick from distance and the Wallabies’ attacking play became increasingly desperate.
Cory Jane became the second new All Blacks cap of the day when he came on late to help the team to the final hooter and a 3-1 Bledisloe Cup victory.
Australia won the opening Test in Sydney, before New Zealand made sure of retaining the trophy with victories in Auckland and Brisbane.
The two teams have only played once before outside their two countries, in the 1991 World Cup semi-finals in Dublin, but are now discussing fixtures in Denver, Colorado, and Tokyo to bring in extra revenue and boost rugby’s profile.
Australia now face tour matches against Italy, England, France and Wales before a finale against the Barbarians at London’s Wembley Stadium. New Zealand are playing Scotland, Ireland, Munster, Wales and England.
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