New Zealand and Australia drew 16-16 in a pulsating Test match in Bledisloe One to open the international season at Sky Stadium, Wellington.
Reece Hodge hit the post with an 83rd-minute penalty from halfway that would have won the game for Australia.
What followed was one of the craziest, most insane series of international rugby played in the history of the sport.
Sheer madness as both teams went to-and-fro as they searched for the winning score.
The Wallabies could not find the try line, rumbling through the phases before losing the ball as the hosts took over possession and counter-attacked from their 22 into the visitors’ half.
New Zealand searched for the match-winning moment, but it did not come, the being turned over, the chance lost.
Finally, nine minutes after regulation time, the ball was booted into touch to end one of the great Bledisloe Cup clashes.
Bledisloe Cup One: Live commentary of how the Test Match unfolded
Try-scorer Aaron Smith did his best Jurgen Klopp impression during the post-match interviews: “Wow!”, said the All Blacks halfback, discussing the outcome of the pulsating final six minutes.
Australia, probably, should have won the game when they won the turnover after the ball bounced off the upright and into their hands.
They could have had a penalty, but Kiwi referee Paul Williams, only the second New Zealand ref to officiate a Trans-Tasman derby since 1978 either missed or decided not to award the visitors a penalty from the melee.
It was end-to-end as both sides looked to win one of the tightest Tests in recent Trans-Tasman history.
What ensued, though, was the most exciting six minutes since South Africa put the English to the sword in Japan, last year.
New Zealand claimed possession and attacked from their goal-line after some dubious work at the previous breakdown. The Aussies had gone eight phases before Ardie Savea won possession.
Savea kick-started the All Blacks counter with Caleb Clark barging his way past the 22. A couple of drives later, the hosts won a penalty after O’Connor did not roll away from the tackle.
Bledisloe Cup: First Test Video Highlights, New Zealand versus Australia at Sky Stadium, Wellington
Ian Foster’s charges carried the ball into the opposition’s 22 as “All Blacks!”, “All Blacks!”, “All Blacks!” reverberated around the Cake Tin.
The rain poured down. Karl Tu’inukuafe knocked on. Michael Hooper, playing his 100th Test, was immense – a captain for the ages. He pounced on the loose ball.
Marika Koroibete carried out of 22 but he was stripped by Richie Mo’unga. Mo’unga sent the ball to Sam Cane. Cane’s run ended when Jake Gordon brought him down 10 meters out.
Tupou Vaa’i and Jack Goodhue both carried into the yellow wall. Dane Coles drove into the stubborn defending
near the poles. Why had both teams not attempted a drop-goal under the sticks when they had the chance?
Patience was key. Three more pick-and-goes from a couple of meters out by the black jerseys came to nothing.
The former World champions lost their composure. TJ Perenara sent a wide, low pass to Jordie Barrett, who took the ball diving forward.
Barrett could not hold onto the slippery ball and Koroibete stripped him of possession. Gordon slowed down proceedings at the ruck, passed to O’Connor – deep in his in-goal area – who banged the ball into the stands.
The home team could not conjure up the famous All Blacks’ magic that often sees them home at the death, and both teams had to settle for a draw in the driving rain.
Make no mistake, the Wallabies will be kicking themselves at the thought of throwing away a deserved victory on New Zealand soil.
New Zealand dominates the first half but could not put the defiant Australian’s away.
New Zealand had the better of the first half, however, Australia fought back from 13-3 down to take the lead after tries from Koroibete and Filipo Daugunu, – and a 74th-minute O’Connor penalty leveled proceedings in the final quarter.
A superb counter-attack in the ninth-minute from the Kiwis led to Jordie Barrett scoring in the corner.
Nearly all the All Blacks touched the ball – after being under the cosh – but the home team spread the ball wide to the finisher to score.
Barrett scored the only try of an even contest and kicked a penalty as the Kiwis took an 8-3 halftime lead following James O’Connor’s 31st-minute penalty.
The All Blacks, however, took a slender lead into the shed; it could have been more had Rieko Ioane not knocked-on in the act of grounding on the stroke of halftime.
It was a costly mistake from the outside centre, one that changed the course of the game.
The Wallabies standoff missed an early second-half penalty, pushing his kick wide, and the All Blacks struck soon after from a well-worked lineout.
George Bridge took Codie Taylor’s inside the ball, sped away before passing to the supporting Aaron Smith.
Smith fended off fellow halfback Nic White to score in the corner, three minutes after the interval.
The conversion was no good but the All Blacks led by two scores.
Koroibete scored a well-worked try following a lineout that cut the deficit to five in the 53rd-minute as the visitors fought back.
The Wallabies moved the ball at pace from the back of a driving maul. Matt To’omua released O’Connor, who sucked in three defenders, held his line, and sent the big winger away.
Koroibete stood strong in the wake of Damian McKenzie’s last-ditch tackle and finished expertly in the corner.
By now, the visitors were dominating, all the hosts could do was hang on as the Aussies took control.
On 62 minutes, they struck again.
Some White magic saw try machine Daugunu score in the corner after O’Connor’s good work in the build-up play.
McKenzie ripped the ball from a Matt Philip but the ball bounced to White, who flicked the ball to the winger to score in the right-hand corner to level.
O’Connor missed the important conversion, but the Australians were level.
The Aussies kept coming, the All Blacks looked lost, losing a lot of the collisions in midfield as the gold jerseys swarmed like bees to a honeycomb.
With less than five minutes remaining, O’Connor stepped up to give the visitors a late lead for the first time in the Test.
But Barrett equalized with 80 seconds remaining after Rob Simmons’ stupid infringement in the maul – the referee even warned him before blowing for the foul.
Three minutes later, Hodge’s kick hit the right-hand upright, and what followed was pandemonium as the teams were left deadlocked.
Final Score: New Zealand 16 (8) Australia 16 (3)
Tries – J. Barrett, A. Smith
Pen – J. Barrett (2)
Tries – Koroibete, Daugunu
Pen – O’Connor (2)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referee 1: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referee 2: Angus Gardner
TMO: Mike Fraser
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke
15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Pete Samu, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Reece Hodge