All Blacks edge out Australia in 76-point thriller to close in on Rugby Championship title

Jordie Barrett scored a try at the death to settle the clash.

Brodie Retallick releases possession for the All Blacks.
Brodie Retallick releases possession for the All Blacks.
Image: AAP/PA Images

NEW ZEALAND’S JORDIE Barrett scored a try at the death as his team beat Australia 39-37 in a thriller to put one hand on the Rugby Championship trophy and retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 20th year.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster’s side came into the rare midweek Test at Melbourne after hammering Argentina 53-3 and clung on for back-to-back wins after Australia rallied from being 31-13 down to take it to the wire.

They went to the break all square at 10-10 at a sold-out Docklands Stadium after a gruelling first half that saw a try apiece, three yellow cards and three All Blacks, including captain Sam Cane, limp off injured.

“What a classic,” said relieved Cane. “To win on the buzzer we’re hugely delighted.”

A New Zealand try 90 seconds after the restart — Samisoni Taukei’aho’s second — and a third yellow card for Australia appeared to end any hopes the home team had.

But two tries from Andrew Kellaway inside five minutes and another from Pete Samu set up an exciting finale.

Nic White nailed a penalty with three minutes to go to put Australia in front, only for Barrett to cross after the final siren and ruin their night.

“Absolutely gutted. I don’t know what to say,” said Australia captain James Slipper.

“We wanted to put in performance tonight and we just fell short there. Probably the most cutting way to finish again, in my opinion.”

The victory further eased pressure on Foster, and kept them top of the Rugby Championship with a game to play on 14 points, four above Australia.

The Springboks and Argentina face each other on Saturday. Both have nine points.

The win also ensured the Bledisloe Cup stayed in New Zealand’s hands ahead of the final Rugby Championship Test at Eden Park in Auckland next week.

After crushing Argentina in Hamilton, they were on a high, facing a new-look Wallabies with eight changes from the side that crashed 24-8 to South Africa.

And the home team was on the back foot immediately when Jed Holloway failed to collect the catch from the kickoff.

New Zealand piled on pressure which culminated in Taukei’aho flopping over in the corner after a powerful lineout drive.

Richie Mo’unga added the extras to give the visitors a dream 7-0 lead inside the opening four minutes, a welcome change for a team that has been slow out the blocks this year.

Mo’unga nailed a penalty to stretch the advantage before the Wallabies got on the board, courtesy of Bernard Foley in his first match since the 2019 World Cup, slotting an easy three-pointer.

- Cruising -

In a huge blow for Australia, Kellaway had a try disallowed for failing to properly ground the ball, but they had momentum and Rob Valetini crashed over for a converted try to level the scores.

Making matters worse for New Zealand, Dalton Papali’i was yellow-carded, forcing the All Blacks into a frantic rearguard defence.

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As he returned, Australia’s Tom Wright and Darcy Swain were both sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes, penalised during the same period of play, to give New Zealand a two-man advantage.

They should have capitalised before the break, but Taukei’aho was denied his second try for not grounding properly and they blew two other chances with sloppy handling.

There made no mistake after the re-start, with Taukei’aho bursting through the defence after barely 90 seconds.

Ill-discipline cost Australia again with scrum-half Jake Gordon sin-binned. Mo’unga dotted down then Will Jordan flew to the line, both while he was off the park.

They looked to be cruising but incredibly two tries from Kellaway hauled Australia back to 27-31 and another from Samu, converted by Foley, made it 37-all with six minutes left.

White sensationally drilled a long-range penalty to put them in front before Barrett’s late heroics.

– © AFP 2022

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