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Dublin: -1 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Incredible drama in Brisbane after late Australia comeback beats Springboks

Tevita Kuridrani’s winning try touched the line by a whisker.

Australia staged a dramatic comeback in Brisbane.
Australia staged a dramatic comeback in Brisbane.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

AUSTRALIA STAGED A dramatic second half comeback as they opened their Rugby Championship campaign with a thrilling 24-20 victory over South Africa in Brisbane.

Tevita Kuridrani’s after-the-buzzer try clinched it for the home side who had trailed 20-7 midway through the second-half and looked destined to suffer a fifth defeat in their last six meetings with the Springboks.

Australia looked down and out in the closing stages, before Kuridrani forced his way over the line, with the TMO awarding the try after it grazed the line.

Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper added Australia’s other tries, with Eben Etzebeth and Jesse Kriel both crossing for the visitors for whom Handre Pollard added a further ten points with the boot.

Michael Cheika’s side showed their intention to keep ball in hand right from the outset, but although they stretched the South African defence on a regular basis during a high-tempo opening quarter, it wasn’t until the 34th minute that they managed to make a breakthrough.

A set-move from an attacking line-out saw Ashley-Cooper come back on the inside of Cooper and race over for his 31st Test try.

Not to be outdone, however, Cooper’s opposite number Pollard masterminded an instant response from the visitors with a chip-kick to the corner which Willie le Roux claimed and flicked on to Etzebeth who crossed in the corner.

Pollard then added the conversion from the touchline to add to his two successful penalties earlier in the piece and send South Africa into the break 13-7 up.

Having finished the first-half on top, Heyneke Meyer’s men started the second in a similar vein and extended their lead courtesy of Kriel’s superb try. The 21-year-old debutant fended off three tackles for a dream start to his test career.

Pollard and le Roux were both involved in the build-up, creating the opportunity for the Bulls man who left three defenders trailing in his wake en route to the line.

At 20-7 down, the hosts needed to score next and managed to do so courtesy of Cooper’s penalty, but it wasn’t until the 74th-minute that they managed to cross the South African line, Hopper burrowing over after excellent approach work from replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps.

That try set up a frantic finale, with the returning Matt Giteau failing to land a long-range penalty before Kuridrani’s dramatic last-ditch effort sent the home fans into raptures.

South Africa’s dismay was deepened by the sight of skipper Victor Matfield limping from the field in the first-half, with the vastly-experienced lock likely to miss next week’s clash with New Zealand in Johannesburg.

Next on the agenda for Australia, meanwhile, is a potentially tricky trip to Mendoza to face Argentina.

Additional reporting by Omnisport.

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Neil Treacy

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