Australia full-back Kurtley Beale kicked a 50m penalty in injury time to beat South Africa 41-39 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Australia full-back Kurtley Beale kicked a 50m penalty in injury time to beat South Africa 41-39 in a dramatic Tri-Nations battle in Bloemfontein.
The last-gasp victory allowed the Wallabies to break a 47-year losing streak on the Highveld that goes all the way back to 1963, and will now finish the tournament in second place – avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon.
Not even 38,000 booing South Africans could deter Beale in the dying seconds of the match, as the man of the moment showed some deep steel by nailing the match-winning penalty from a difficult angle on the halfway line.
The raised flags behind the posts consigned the Springboks to their fifth defeat of a forgettable 2010 campaign, completing their spiralling journey to rock bottom. Since the start of this year's tournament, they've surrendered the Tri-Nations title, the Freedom Cup, and now the Mandela Plate.
Australia haven't won in Bloemfontein since 1933 but came perilously close to ending second best for the second time in two weeks after dominating the opening quarter, but then – like a bad case of deja vu – let the Springboks battle all the way back to lead in the second half.
The world champions looked down and out shortly before half-time when they trailed 31-6, but a moment of inspiration from vice-captain Victor Matfield reinvigorated the hosts after he set up Jaque Fourie to score.
Further tries from Gurthro Steenkamp and Jean de Villiers added to a match haul of 24 points for Morne Steyn, helped edge the Boks in front with 90 seconds left to play. But unbelievably, the hosts conceded a penalty in the final minute, and Australia captain Rocky Elsom asked Beale to have a crack for the unlikely win.
Australia were gifted an early three points when Bryan Habana was punished for not releasing and Matt Giteau easily slotted over the opening points.
Steyn responded for the hosts after Beale's illegal attempt to steal the ball, but the Waratahs star made amends almost instantly. Jean de Villiers failed to hold his position, which allowed James O'Connor to send his team-mate away for the opening try after eight minutes.
Giteau added the extras, before another Springbok error, this time surprisingly at the line-out, led to another seven-pointer for Australia. John Smit's put-in was too long enabling the Wallabies to steal the ball and spread it quickly through the hands to Adam Ashley-Cooper, whose pass sent O'Connor over.
The conversion by Giteau followed, and after Steyn put over another penalty, Stephen Moore crossed for his third Test try, set up by Drew Mitchell's break through the middle.
Australia added a bonus point-try after 24 minutes, but again had Habana to thank after the winger missed his tackle on O'Connor, who sliced through the centre and off-loaded to Elsom to score.
Giteau extended the lead to 31-6 and the score looked to be remaining that way heading into the half-time break, until the moment of genius from Matfield.
The veteran lock, who won his 100th cap last week, chipped the ball over the last defender and impressively regathered before laying the ball on for Fourie to score.
Steyn converted to leave Peter de Villiers' side trailing by 18 at the break.
Steenkamp cut that gap by five six minutes after the restart when he powered his way over and the conversion along with a penalty from Steyn further boosted the visibly rejuvenated hosts.
The upward swing in momentum gathered even more pace after 54 minutes when Jean de Villiers' angled run cut right through the Australia defence and saw the Stormers centre cross under the post.
It was a move that came from an initial Beale error and then a strong South Africa scrum.
The comeback was complete on the hour mark when a mammoth 50 metre penalty from Steyn put the home side ahead for the first time. And Australia's woes deepened 10 minutes later when replacement hooker Saia Faingaa was sent to the sin-bin after a spear tackle on Flip van der Merwe.
Steyn extended the lead to five points, but there was another twist when Mitchell crossed under the posts with eight minutes to play and O'Connor handed the lead back to the tourists with a clean conversion.
But an error from Beale four minutes from time presented Steyn with his ninth opportunity at goal and he maintained his 100 per cent record by putting his side back ahead.
However, Beale had the final say to condemn South Africa to bottom place in the standings after a disappointing defence of their 2009 title.
Man of the match: Could it be anyone else besides that Un-Beale-lievable last-gasp penalty kick for Australia?
Moment of the match: Victor Matfield's individual brilliance in setting up South Africa's first try was simply spectacular, but it goes without saying that this match will be remembered for that kick from Beale.
Villain of the match: Saia Faingaa's moment of madness that ended with Flip van der Merwe on his head in the 69th minute. Steyn kicked the ensuing penalty and the Wallabies faced the impossible task of closing the gap with only 14 men.
For South Africa:
Tries: Fourie, Steenkamp, De Villiers
Pens: M Steyn 6
Cons: M Steyn 3
Tries: Beale, O'Connor, Moore, Elsom, Mitchell
Cons: Giteau 5, O'Connor
Pen: Giteau, Beale
South Africa: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ricky Januarie , 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Gio Aplon.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Mark Chisholm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
By Dave Morris