The Rugby Championship

Beauden Barrett the hero as All Blacks clinch Bledisloe Cup with thrilling victory over Wallabies

The fly half scores in the dying stages to give his side a 35-29 win in an epic test match

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 August, 2017, 12:03am

Beauden Barrett was New Zealand’s hero with a converted try less than two minutes from full-time as the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 35-29 in a cliffhanger in Dunedin on Saturday.

The lead changed three times in a frantic five minutes before Barrett sealed the deal and broke the hearts of the Australian side that had been widely written off before the game.

There were five tries apiece with the telling difference being Barrett successfully converting all five for the All Blacks while Bernard Foley landed only two for Australia.

But as much as Barrett secured the win, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen singled out Kieran Read for the way he won the restart after Kurtley Beale had put the Wallabies in front 29-28.

“We were fortunate to come out on the right side thanks to a lot of composure,” he said. “To be 17 points down and come back you’ve got to have good composure and to lose the lead again in the 74th minute, a lot of sides would have chucked it in.

“But they didn’t and they got the rewards for it. [Read] really stood up in the last five minutes, took the kick-off, made the break and that’s what you expect from your leader.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika believed poor decision making by the Wallabies at the death cost them the game.

“The gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it,” he said. “There were things during the game that could have changed the course of it and then the last bit, those three minutes, we should have got hold of that ball and kept it at all costs.”

The victory meant the All Blacks claimed the Bledisloe Cup, contested between the two sides, for a 15th consecutive year and have a perfect 2-0 start to the Rugby Championship with home and away games against South Africa and Argentina still to come.

Australia, humiliated 54-34 in the first test a week ago, made a flying start in Dunedin, scoring after just 26 seconds and they had three tries and an unanswered 17 points on the board after 16 minutes.

Working off a pack that had the Wallabies back-pedalling at scrum time, the All Blacks were intent on playing a high-paced, high-risk game but faced with a rushed defence it came with a high error count, including 10 turnovers in the first half.

But once they settled down and made the passes stick they began to make inroads. Playing to honour the memory of national icon Colin Meads, who died last Sunday, the All Blacks had closed the gap to 17-14 at half-time but it took 20 minutes of the second half before they hit the front for the first time.

It was a bizarre start to the test with the kick-off delayed 10 minutes because of problems readjusting the lights after they were dimmed during a pre-match tribute to Meads.

When play did get under way the All Blacks were immediately on attack and running at the Wallabies line with a two-man overlap when Israel Folau claimed a vital intercept and raced 80 metres to score.

Ten minutes later Michael Hooper broke from a line-out against a non-existent defence and with Foley adding the conversion the Wallabies were up 12-0.

Play had hardly settled down when the Wallabies crossed for the third time after Will Genia salvaged the ball from a scrum heading backwards and sent Foley away for the try.

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It was not until the end of the first quarter before the All Blacks registered their first points to Rieko Ioane and Aaron Smith narrowed the gap with their second try from another dominant scrum on half-time.

At the start of the second half the All Blacks put the flashy plans aside and resorted to old-fashioned forward drives but while it kept them on the right side of half way the Wallabies put up a formidable defence.

It took 20 minutes before the New Zealanders hit the lead for the first time when they turned down a close-range shot at goal in favour of a scrum where Aaron Smith ran blind and put Barrett over.

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Will Genia responded for the Wallabies to lead 22-21 before Ben Smith – in his last game before taking a break for the rest of the year – restored the lead for the All Blacks with 10 minutes remaining.

In the countdown to the final whistle, Kurtley Beale scored to put Australia back in front before Barrett scored the match winner for the All Blacks.