Kurtley Beale performs under pressure

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 00:22 17/08/2014

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All Blacks fullback Ben Smith wraps up Wallabies first-five Kurtley Beale in the first half of the test.
Kurtley Beale
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SOLID PERFORMER: Kurtley Beale was calm under pressure for the Wallabies during their 12-12 draw with the All Blacks in Sydney.

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Ewen McKenzie wanted Kurtley Beale to have a crack in Saturday night's history-making Bledisloe Cup test - and he did, though not in the manner the Wallabies coach had intended.

Beale was selected ahead of Bernard Foley for his playmaking prowess but ultimately it was his goal-kicking which proved influential.

Four penalties by a player who was emotionally devastated by his previous attempt in a gold jersey contributed to the Wallabies ending the All Blacks bid for a record-breaking 18th consecutive test at ANZ Stadium.

Beale neglected to take a dropped goal in the dying stages of an 18-18 draw in Brisbane in 2012 but he maintained his composure - despite some anxious moments in open play - to contribute all of Australia's points in an absorbing 12-12 stalemate in the Rugby Championship opener.

A debatable selection at first five-eighth for just the eighth time in his 43-test career, Beale's inclusion ahead of Foley was always a calculated risk, and once the weather deteriorated as kick-off loomed the mercurial playmaker looked to face an even tougher assignment.

Starting his first test at pivot since Cardiff at the end of 2012, Beale made an inauspicious beginning when he safely collected a high ball in the sixth minute only to turnover possession in contact to place his defence under stress until Dane Coles knocked on.

Although his teammates talked up Beale's defensive capabilities during the build-up he was wisely spared a head-on confrontation with Ma'a Nonu, Malakai Fekitoa or Julian Savea when the All Blacks had set piece ball.

Matt Toomua moved into Beale's position and Rob Horne came off the wing as Beale dropped back out of the firing line - a tactic used by the Waratahs during their successful Super Rugby campaign.

There was no hiding when it finally became apparent Beale was the designated goal kicker in Foley's absence and he calmly got the Wallabies on the board from 40-metres with his first attempt in a test since he slipped while connecting with a potentially match-winning penalty in the opening British and Irish Lions clash in June last year.

Beale lost the ball forward the first time he took on the line and was penalised by Jaco Peyper for crabbing along the turf after being tackled but made amends - fortuitously - for those indiscretions when he was the catalyst for Wyatt Crockett's sinbinning in the 38th minute.

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Beale again rode his luck when he took a quick tap rather than a close range three-pointer, although the All Blacks prop was yellow carded for being offside to give the home side a man advantage either side of the break

The Wallabies finally opted to take a penalty as the All Blacks continued to infringe but Beale struck the post from a relatively easy angle to preserve the world champion's six-point lead at the break.

Beale was on target with two penalties to square the ledger at 9-9 heading into the final quarter and although his intercept pass set up Cruden's fourth penalty, he redeemed himself one last time from 28-metres before exiting in the 69th minute with his reputation intact.

- Stuff

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