Planet Rugby

Last-gasp Wallabies prevail in HK

30th October 2010 08:26

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James O Connor Australia v New Zealand

Victory is sweet: Australia swamp Wallaby hero James O'Connor

Australia finally ended their 10-game losing streak to New Zealand by beating their trans-Tasman rivals 26-24 in a thrilling Test spectacle in Hong Kong on Saturday.

It took an injury-time conversion by Wallaby wing James O'Connor to win the match for his team after leveling the scores with a last-gasp try in the corner.

O'Connor held his nerve to end Australia's miserable run against New Zealand as the man of the moment converted to seal a dramatic Bledisloe Cup victory at Hong Kong Stadium.

Another All Blacks victory seemed a sure thing after the Kiwis had thwarted a previous Wallaby attack just seconds earlier. However replacement fly-half Stephen Donald failed to find touch with his clearance kick. But trailing 24-19 with the final hooter having sounded, Australia managed to keep the ball alive through several phases of play before O'Connor crashed over the line.

As expected, the game was played at a frenetic pace from start to finish with both sides giving the dispersed crowd excellent value for their money. What a shame a high-quality Test match such as this, couldn't be witnessed by a sold-out stadium.

Australia made much the better start and Kurtley Beale had two chances to give them an early lead following New Zealand infringements but the full-back was off target with penalties from almost identical positions on the right hand side.

The Wallabies continued to pressure the New Zealand line and after a couple of half-breaks came to nothing with passes not sticking, they finally took the lead in the eighth minute when the ball was moved out to Quade Cooper on the left and the fly-half's angled run took him over in the corner, although Matt Giteau missed the conversion.

Mils Muliania was on hand to tidy up Will Genia's dangerous grubber kick in the in-goal area before New Zealand began to gain a foothold in the contest and Dan Carter wasted two opportunities to reduce the arrears, his first penalty hitting the left upright and the second drifting wide.

Australia extended their advantage to 12-0 in the 22nd minute when following a lineout, Adam Ashley-Cooper broke a tackle in midfield to burst clear and score under the posts with Giteau adding the extras.

That stirred the All Blacks into life and they came close to their opening try when Kieran Reid flung the ball out to Keven Mealamu on the left wing after the number eight's strong run was halted five metres out by desperate Australian defence but Mealamu was held up over the line.

They finally got on the scoreboard on the half-hour mark. Jimmy Cowan picked up from the base of a ruck after Jerome Kaino had gained good ground and the scrum-half darted over with Carter adding the conversion.

New Zealand took the lead three minutes later as the ball was moved out to Read on the right and his short pass afforded Corey Jane the space for the winger to barge over the line from inside the 22 with Carter again adding the two points.

Giteau then struck another penalty off target but Carter made no such mistake, slotting over from 45 metres to give his side a 17-12 half-time lead.

Australia began the second period with plenty of attacking intent and skipper Rocky Elsom was just unable to get the ball down after forcing his way over.

Giteau missed another penalty before New Zealand extended their lead to 12 points in the 53rd minute.

Richie McCaw's fantastic break down the right was the catalyst, the skipper shrugging off a couple of defenders to gain valuable yards before he was eventually hauled down. The ball was recycled out to Ma'a Nonu and the centre was able to use his strength to touch down, Carter succeeding with the subsequent conversion.

Australia hit back just after the hour mark as Beale's incisive run ended with the full-back off-loading to Drew Mitchell and he powered in at the corner. O'Connor reduced the deficit to five points with a fine conversion from the left touchline.

O'Connor then could not haul in Berrick Barnes' pass with New Zealand stretched following the substitute's break before Carter missed another penalty with four minutes to go.

Australia continued to press for the try they needed and having kept the ball alive following the final hooter, O'Connor managed to force his way over the line from close in before kicking the winning conversion.

Man of the match: James O'Connor's heroics can't be ignored, but flanker David Pocock was the Wallabies' best player. However our vote goes to the losing All Black team's loose trio of Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read - all three were devastating on attack, rock solid in defence and provided a constant and invaluable source of possession from breakdown turnovers

Moment of the match: Do we even need to say it? In case you missed it - James O'Connor's unerring conversion to win the Test match for Australia.

Villain of the match: Stephen Donald isn't going to get many Christmas cards after first missing a penalty kick in the 75th minute which would have given the All Blacks a comfortable eight-point advantage. Then he missed touch with a clearing kick moments from the end which led to a turnover and O'Connor's winning try.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Cooper, Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell, O'Connor
Cons: Giteau, O'Connor 2

For New Zealand:
Tries: Cowan, Jane, Nonu
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter

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 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slipper, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Lachie Turner.

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 John Afoa, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Isaia Toeava.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

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