Australia roared back from a record loss to stun their mighty New Zealand rivals 24-22 Saturday in a breathless Tri Nations Test match that saw two first-half red cards in Brisbane.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men when New Zealand’s Ofa Tuungafasi and Australia’s debutant Lachlan Swinton were sent off for dangerous high tackles.
The Wallabies had been given little chance after a 43-5 drubbing last weekend against an All Blacks side who had already secured the Bledisloe Cup with a game to spare after a draw and two wins in the first three Tests.
The Wallabies were forced to dig deep at 15-11 down in the second half to avoid a third successive defeat to their great rivals, and scored a penalty to reduce the deficit to a single point after a mighty forward effort forced New Zealand to collapse a scrum.
They then finished the stronger to seal the unlikely win when replacement prop Taniela Tupou crashed over with five minutes left and Reece Hodge’s conversion put the home side 24-15 ahead.
There was still time for All Blacks to cross with two minutes remaining, Tupou Vaai diving over next to the posts. Jordie Barrett converted to reduce the gap to 24-22, but the Wallabies held on for a deserved win.
“I’m really proud of the guys, we’ve been working hard for a lot of weeks,” said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who was enjoyed his first win since taking charge of Australia .
“We knew we were better than last week and showed a lot of character tonight. We know we get still be better, we can be tidier and finish off the game without putting the coaches through the wringer.
“But they’re a good bunch of boys, they’re working hard and great that we got a result tonight.”
The Wallabies got away to a blistering start in front of more than 36,000 fans when a perfect chip-kick from flyhalf Reece Hodge found fullback Tom Banks whose clever flick pass enabled wing Tom Wright to score with his first touch in Test rugby.
The All Blacks struck back six minutes later when winger Rieko Ioane crossed in the corner after 29 phases to level at 5-5.
‘PLAYERS GET IT WRONG’
Hodge edged the Wallabies in front with a penalty before the All Blacks were rocked by Tuungafasi’s red card. The big prop was deemed to have hit Wright in the head with his shoulder in a dangerous tackle.
“It’s a fast moving game and there’s big collisions, and every now and then players get it slightly wrong,” said New Zealand captain Sam Cane.
After weathering a storm from the Australians, the All Blacks drew level at 8-8 via the boot of Jordie Barrett.
From the kick-off Swinton smashed Sam Whitelock with a shoulder to the head and referee Nic Berry showed him the second red card of the match.
“I don’t think either was malicious – they were just slightly off,” Cane said.
The Wallabies were rocked when winger Marika Koroibete was shown a yellow card on half-time for a professional foul but with 13 men they took the lead after the restart with a second Hodge penalty.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Codie Taylor crashed over at the back of a driving maul after Whitelock secured good ball at the line-out five metres out.
It was then the All Blacks’ turn to be reduced to 13 when Scott Barrett was shown a yellow card for cynically stopping an attack while lying on the ground.
The Wallabies took full advantage with another Hodge penalty before Tupou’s match-winning try.
“We said we wanted a response after last week and we got it,” said a delighted Rennie.
New Zealand coach Ian Foster conceded the Wallabies had deserved their win.
“A lot’s changed in seven days,” Foster said.
“It’s a great example of Test match rugby. It’s what we love about it.
“I congratulate the Wallabies for how they played today. They controlled the game better than us and deserved to win.”