Draw with Wallabies ends ABs winning run
An 18-all draw with the Wallabies has ended the All Blacks' tilt at a world-record winning streak.
First five-eighth Dan Carter had the chance to win the match several minutes into injury time but his left-footed drop goal sailed outside the uprights.
Although he struck the ball well, Carter immediately wrapped his hands around his head in disgust as he watched the ball drift off the mark.
Earlier in the week the All Blacks vowed to mark Keven Mealamu's 100th test with a quality performance but their mistake-ridden effort left their fans wondering whether the late arrival in Australia and the heat had proved an unwanted distraction.
Having been kept try-less through a combination of the Wallabies gritty defence, a soaring penalty count and an uncharacteristically high error count the All Blacks were stunned into throwing away any chance of breaking Lithuania's world record of 18 consecutive victories.
Their run of wins stays on 16.
Having earlier survived an attempt by the Wallabies to set-up for a drop-goal, the All Blacks, who were awarded a penalty, spurned the chance to kick the ball out and settle for the draw.
Captain Richie McCaw bravely called for a scrum to keep the ball alive.
Another penalty resulted in the All Blacks taking a quick tap and when replacement back Ben Smith burst up the park he created a chance for his team to grind up field and prepare for Carter to rest in the pocket.
It was the sort of game that anxious All Blacks fans watched through the fingers spread over their own faces; often when their team took the ball into contact or competed for breakdown ball they made mistakes and the frustration among the New Zealanders was evident.
If they were not fumbling the ball or being harried into errors by the creeping defence they were being punished for losing their feet or not releasing the ball in the rucks.
Having trailed until the 66th minute, the All Blacks looked to finally be wearing down the Aussies when Carter slotted his fifth penalty to lock-up the scores and he put them ahead with his sixth successful shot.
But ex-Kiwi Mike Harris slotted his fifth penalty to keep the pulsating encounter alive for the Aussies.
The match was also marred by some niggle with Wallabies blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham delivering a head butt to All Blacks' skipper Richie McCaw as they grappled on the deck in the 26th minute.
Higginbotham's Liverpool kiss is expected to be reviewed by the citing commissioner.
Aussie openside flanker Michael Hooper is unlikely to feel the commissioner's wrath but a brain snap, because he needlessly shoulder charged halfback Aaron Smith when he had kicked downfield, earned him a yellow card in the second spell.
The traditional feeling-out period in the early minutes resulted in Harris and Carter trading penalties, the latter pounding his missile over from 49m when Beale was trapped in a ruck.
Carter nailed his second inside the 11th minute when Aaron Smith earlier lost the ball as he lunged for the line, a movement which followed the Wallabies botching a lineout throw.
Repeated handling errors impinged both side's momentum.
The Wallabies rued a lost opportunity when hooker Tatafu Polota Nau spilled possession in a tackle by No 8 Kieran Read and minutes later the All Blacks almost scored themselves when a Conrad Smith pounced on a long-range kick from fellow mid-fielder Ma'a Nonu; the Aussies rode their fortune on that one - right wing Nick Cummins barely got a fingernail to the ball to save some blushes.
Not to be outdone All Blacks left wing Hosea Gear burned up the middle in a spectacular solo run but Aaron Smith ducked left instead of right and the movement was suffocated by the scrambling gold defenders.
Harris' boot pushed the Wallabies ahead 9-6 in the final quarter as the New Zealanders continued to struggle with their handling and cohesion.
This was epitomised by them bumbling through a backline move involving second five-eighth Nonu off an attacking scrum, resulting in them being penalised for obstruction.
In the blink of an eyelid the relieved Aussies were inside the All Blacks half and when loosehead prop Tony Woodcock was penalised for not releasing a ball carrier he was issued a yellow card by referee Craig Joubert on the halftime bell.
It was a call that seemed inevitable.
The South African whistler had earlier warned McCaw he was fed-up with lot slowing down the ball and when he spied Woodcock still furiously digging away at the ball he kept his promise.
Australia 18 (Michael Harris 5, Kurtley Beale pens) drew New Zealand 18 (Daniel Carter 6 pens).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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