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Wallabies fall at the death in Dunedin thriller

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The Wallabies have suffered a heartbreaking 29-35 defeat to New Zealand, conceding a last-gasp try after leading for much of the night at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

In a dramatically improved showing from last week’s defeat in Sydney, the Wallabies raced out to a 17-0 lead and held a one-point advantage heading into the final two minutes of the match until Beauden Barrett’s second try of the night stole the victory for the home side.

The two teams crossed for five tries a piece in a thrilling contest, with the second half producing five lead changes.

Qantas Wallabies Captain, Michael Hooper said: “It’s gutting. Believe me, we came here full of confidence that we could win this game tonight and I thought we did well to put them under pressure. I’m proud of the turnaround (from last week) and we took many steps in the right direction but in the end it wasn’t good enough. (The last try) was a dagger in the heart.”

In a stunning opening it was against the run of play that the Wallabies drew first blood just 27 seconds into the match as Israel Folau swooped on an attempted cut-out pass from Damian McKenzie and took off 70 metres downfield to stun the Dunedin crowd.

Ten minutes later another lapse from the home side saw the Wallabies race further ahead when Michael Hooper slipped through a tackle from Keiran Read and strolled over the under posts. Bernard Foley’s conversion made it 12-0 to the visitors inside the opening 12 minutes.

Three minutes later the All Backs went searching for a momentum shifter and pushed the Wallabies scrum on halfway, but the ball spat out for the Wallabies and Will Genia opened them up and found Hooper, who in turn gave it to Foley for a sprint to the line, making it 17-0 to the visitors.

Midway through the half the hit-back finally came when Rieko Ioane sliced through from a clever inside ball from Aaron Smith.

The Wallabies again muscled up and Foley had a chance to add another three points at the 30-minute mark but his strike hit the right upright.

The men in black narrowly escaped further embarrassment though, as Henry Speight chased the loose ball down but couldn’t reel it in as he went to score what would have been another opportunist try.

Australia survived a late scare on the stroke of half time when Ben Smith was ruled by the TMO to have lost the ball attempting to ground it alongside the goalpost pad. Soon after though, they were sprung, as Aaron Smith snuck through from the base of a scrum to bridge the gap to three points at the half.

The second half began at a frantic pace and both sides scrambled well in defence before New Zealand thought they’d broken through when Brodie Retallick crashed over.

The giant lock tried to force it down with three Wallabies defenders under him but the TMO ruled there wasn’t clear evidence of the grounding and the score remained 17-14 to the Wallabies with 25 minutes to play.

New Zealand kept their foot on the pedal and made sure of it when they got back into Wallabies territory again soon after, with Barrett finding a soft spot on the blind a beating two defenders to the line to give the home side their first lead.

But the Wallabies refused to go into their shell and six minutes later Will Genia silenced the crowd again when he dummied and sliced through four New Zealand defenders to race away and score Australia’s fourth.

The seesawing contest continued from there, and sustained pressure eventually told as Ben Smith found space on the outside and New Zealand pinched the lead back.

Australia’s response was again courageous and when Kurtley Beale dived over under the posts the Wallabies had taken the lead back with just four minutes to play.

Disaster struck from the ensuing restart though, when the All Blacks gathered a loose ball and soon after skipper Keiran Read burst through a hole to set up Barrett, who ran away to break the Wallabies hearts with the match-winner in the 78th minute.

With the victory, New Zealand retains the Bledisloe Cup.The Wallabies will face South Africa at nib Stadium in Perth in their next Rugby Championship clash on Saturday 9 September.

HOW IT HAPPENED:

1 mins: Israel Folau try AUS 5-0 NZL

11 mins: Michael Hooper try; Bernard Foley con AUS 12-0 NZL

15 mins: Bernard Foley try; AUS 17-0 NZL

21 mins: Rieko Ioane try; Beauden Barrett con AUS 17-7 NZL

40 mins: Aaron Smith try; Beauden Barrett con AUS 17-14 NZL

HALF TIME

61 mins: Beauden Barrett try; Beauden Barrett con AUS 17-21 NZL

67 mins: Will Genia try AUS 22-21 NZL

71 mins: Ben Smith try; Beauden Barrett con AUS 22-28 NZL

76 mins: Kurtley Beale try; Bernard Foley con AUS 29-28 NZL

78 mins: Beauden Barrett try; Beauden Barrett con AUS 29-35 NZL

FULL TIME

New Zealand 35 (Beauden Barrett 2, Rieko Ioane, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith tries; Beauden Barrett 5 cons) defeated Australia 29 (Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Kurtley Beale tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons)