MELBOURNE (AP): Jordie Barrett’s try after the fulltime siren following a contentious refereeing decision gave New Zealand a dramatic 39-37 win over Australia on Thursday and the Bledisloe Cup for a 20th consecutive year.
New Zealand established big leads in each half — 10-0 after 12 minutes and 31-13 with 25 minutes to play — but the Wallabies rallied each time in a brutal, physical encounter that featured yellow cards and a list of injuries.
Australia fullback Andrew Kellaway scored in the 61st and 67th minutes and Pete Samu dived into the left corner after two exchanges of passes with winger Marika Koroibete in the 73rd. Bernard Foley, playing his first test in three years, converted them all to tie the score at 34-34.
Then a long-range penalty goal from replacement scrumhalf Nic White lifted the Wallabies into the lead for the first time with three minutes remaining.
The All Blacks waived a penalty kick to level to go for a winning try from an attacking lineout, and blew it by conceding a penalty themselves.
But Foley took his time with a kick for the sideline, thinking the clock was stopped, and referee Mathieu Raynal made the rare decision to intervene and give the All Blacks a scrum at close range.
The All Blacks duly won the scrum and spread the ball for Will Jordan to offload to Barrett to score the winner and extend their lead in the Rugby Championship.
It was a bitter result for the Wallabies, who haven’t won the annual Bledisloe Cup series since 2002 and go to Auckland next week without any hope of winning the annual series against New Zealand or the Rugby Championship.
“It’s probably the most gutting way to finish a game, in my opinion,” Australia skipper James Slipper said.
Neither captain finished the game because of injuries.
New Zealand skipper Sam Cane described it as “a lot of carnage.”
“What a classic Bledisloe Cup match,” he said. “To win on the buzzer — we’re delighted.”
New Zealand dominated the opening 15 minutes, and hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho burrowed over in the fourth minute after an Australian mistake from the kickoff followed by two penalties.
Foley opened Australia’s account with a penalty goal and, after Kellaway had a try disallowed, he converted Rob Valetini’s try to level at 10-10.
The score remained unchanged at the break despite both teams going close. The Australians weren’t able to convert a one-man overlap when New Zealand had a player in the sin-bin, and the All Blacks blew two scoring chances when Australia was down to 13 men.
Darcy Swain and Tom Wright were yellow-carded in the 36th after Caleb Clarke’s long, solo burst for the All Blacks. Wright’s card was for a professional foul, slowing New Zealand’s ball at the back of the ruck, and Swain’s for dangerous play when he rejoined the ruck and appeared to target Quinn Tupaea’s knee.
Taukei’aho scored again immediately after halftime, while Swain and Wright were still sidelined, and the New Zealanders made the most of a numerical advantage again when Richie Mo’unga and Jordan scored long-range tries while Australia scrumhalf Jake Gordon was in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
They appeared to have buried the Wallabies, but the hosts exploited a patched-up All Blacks backline to rally yet again.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said he was “gutted” for his players.
“To fight back and get ourselves in front showed a lot of character,” he said. “Disappointing way to end it.”
Rennie said he’d never seen a similar call by a referee at test level.
“It lacks a little bit of feel for such an important moment in the game,” he said in a post-match TV interview, before adding more praise for the Wallabies. “From 31-13, not many teams come back against New Zealand. A hell of a performance.”