Beauden Barrett scored at the death as New Zealand beat Australia in a come from behind 35-29 ten-try thriller at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, in Bledisloe II.
This was a game for the ages. A classic Test match.
It is up there with the All Blacks’ 27-38 victory over the Springboks at Ellis Park in 2013, which is regarded as the greatest Test of this century, and reminiscent of the Kiwi’s 35-39 victory in Sydney, 2000.
The Wallabies looked to have caused an upset when Kurtley Beale scored in the 77th-minute and Bernard Foley’s conversion gave their team a one-point 28-29 lead.
However, the World champions had other ideas, digging deep and scoring the winner with seconds remaining.
The win means New Zealand retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 15th year, going back to 2002.
At Stadium Australia, New Zealand raced to a 24-nil lead after five minutes. It was not quite as breakneck as back then, but close enough.
This time, it was the Kiwis who trailed, down by 17 points inside 15 minutes. The delayed start, due to light failure inside the indoor arena, might have been a factor in their lethargic start.
Tries by Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley rocked Steve Hansen’s men inside the opening quarter.
But the All Blacks hit back with two converted tries from before the break. Rieko Ioane and Aaron Smith’s try on the stroke of half-time, reduced the deficit to three as the teams went into the shed.
New Zealand dominated possession and territory but the Australian defence, non-existent last week in Sydney, was strong this time.
After shipping 54 points in 50 minutes last week, Michael Cheika will have been pleased with his side’s resistance.
They bent but did not break, despite the black tide that engulfed his men. The home team enjoyed long periods of possession – over 80 percent in the first half – and were camped in Australia’s half for 20 minutes after the interval.
It was their scrum, which disintegrated under the weight of the All Black pack, that killed Cheika’s team. Conceding 12 penalties to five did not help either, that, and Foley’s poor kicking.
The standoff missed three conversions and a penalty, hitting the posts twice, which cost his side in the final tally.
A thrilling finale with more denouements than Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.
The game burst into life in the last quarter, with five tries in 19 minutes, see-sawing as the teams exchanged tries and the lead.
On 67 minutes, Will Genia scored a stunning five-pointer, beating Ardie Savea, Damian McKenzie and Aaron Smith before crossing the whitewash to give Australia a 21-22 lead.
This was either side of Beauden Barrett’s first try and Ben Smith’s 71st-minute score, which made it a six-point ballgame in favour of the hosts.
Beale looked to have won the game when he dived over under the posts with three minutes remaining, but Barrett had other ideas.
Final Score: New Zealand 35 (14) Australia 29 (17)
Tries – R. Ioane, A. Smith, B. Barrett (2), B. Smith
Con – B. Barrett (5)
Tries – Folau, Hooper, Foley, Genia, Beale
Con – Foley (2)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Ref 1: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
Assistant Ref 2: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Curtis Rona