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Bledisloe Cup opener ends in draw

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Update: 00:05AM Lightning does strike twice after all, with the Wallabies again denying the All Blacks a record 18th consecutive Test win in a tense 12-12 draw in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.

Two years ago, an 18-18 draw in Brisbane prevented the All Blacks from matching the 18 straight wins by New Zealand from 1965-69 and also South Africa's 1997-98 outfit - and the first tryless Test in Sydney since 1979 denied the Kiwis again on Saturday night.

Wallabies five-eighth Kurtley Beale and All Blacks opposite Aaron Cruden both landed four penalty goals in wet and slippery conditions at ANZ Stadium.

South African Jaco Peyper's pedantic and, at times, bemusing refereeing reduced the much-anticipated trans-Tasman showdown to a dour, stop-start affair in front of 68,627 fans.

There was still a gripping finish, though, with the Wallabies attacking relentlessly as the clock wound down in pursuit of their first win over the world champions in three years.

But, unlike two weeks ago at the same venue when Bernard Foley booted the NSW Waratahs to a last-minute win over the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final, there was no match-winner at the death.

The All Blacks played a quarter of the match with only 14 men after prop Wyatt Crockett and replacement five-eighth Beauden Barrett were both sin-binned for cynical plays.

The Wallabies, though, were unable to capitalise and were left to rue a succession of missed opportunities in the second half.

"It feels like a loss, the fact that we got so close and had a chance to win it in the end," lamented Australia captain Michael Hooper.

"We had good moments in tough conditions - probably first phase we let ourselves down a bit. We'd get down their end then turn it over, so we can be better there."

The hollow draw leaves the Wallabies facing rugby's version of Mission Impossible to wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 12 years.

Ewen McKenzie's team must win the final two Tests of the series, including next Saturday's at Auckland's Eden Park, where the All Blacks haven't lost since 1994 - and Australia haven't won in 28 years.

But Hooper preferred to look on the bright side.

"We're in the same position we were in two hours ago," he said of Saturday night's result.

"We've got to win two to get this thing back, so nothing new for us."

Israel Folau squandered Australia's best try-scoring chance in the 54th minute.

Under pressure, Cruden's attempted clearing kick from inside the New Zealand in-goal area landed straight down Folau's throat 30 metres out from the All Blacks line.

But, with a three-man overlap, the fullback's wild pass flew over Beale's head.

A contentious selection as the starting playmaker ahead of Foley, Beale had a mixed game in his first appearance in the Wallabies' No.10 jumper since 2012, but his fourth penalty goal 10 minutes from fulltime ultimately earned his team the draw.

The All Blacks had led 9-3 at the break, but spent much of the second half defending in their own territory.

While "gutted" not to have won, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said he was proud of his charges for holding the Wallabies at bay.

"We showed a lot of heart and courage and I think a lot of other teams would have crumbled under the pressure we were under," he said.

"When you're playing against one of the best sides in the world with only 14 men, it makes it pretty hard work."

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