Wallabies blow title race wide open
August 7, 2004
Lote Tuqiri dives in to ground the ball for the game's only try
© Getty Images
The trend of close encounters in this year´s Tri-Nations continued in Sydney this evening with Australia battling past New Zealand 23-18.
The loss was Graham Henry´s first as All Blacks coach and throws open the Tri Nations title race with just the South African leg to go.
It was another thrilling end to a clash between the two sides with the All Blacks threatening until the final whistle. But in the end, their highly-rated backline failed again and the team is likely to be happy about heading to South Africa rather than returning home and facing the wrath of the Kiwi public.
Wallabies flanker George Smith was the standout performer while for the All Blacks the early replacement of Carlos Spencer in the second half could signal major changes ahead of next week´s Test against the Springboks in Johannesburg.
In a tight second half, both sides traded early penalties before Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri crossed for the game´s only try in the 47th minute for a 20-15 lead.
Spencer, clearly off his game, was replaced by Andrew Mehrtens in the 50th minute. The veteran wasted little time to reduce the lead to 20-18 with a penalty in the 55th minute.
The Wallabies continued to threaten, but some resolute All Blacks defence on the line ensured the Australians were limited to a penalty to Matt Burke for a 23-18 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
The All Blacks mounted a stern challenge eight minutes from fulltime but it was some stoic Wallaby defence that proved the match winner. Earlier, the All Blacks dominated the start and deserved a 9-0 lead through the boot of Daniel Carter after 16 minutes.
But the Wallabies settled after overcoming the early pressure of the Kiwi scrum and finished stronger with Matt Giteau landing three penalties in the final 10 minutes before half-time.
The Wallabies had the best scoring opportunities with Tuqiri and Stirling Mortlock stopped on the line. All Blacks lock Ali Williams was sinbinned for repeated team infringements late in the first half and before he had returned after the break Tuqiri crossed for the try.
Australia: 23 Try: Tuqiri Pen: Giteau (4), Burke (2)
New Zealand: 18 Pen: Carter (4), Spencer, Mehrtens