Wallabies draw with All Blacks in Bledisloe Cup opener

The Wallabies and All Blacks gave it everything for 89 minutes and could not be split. Picture: Getty
The Wallabies and All Blacks gave it everything for 89 minutes and could not be split. Picture: Getty

Rarely could Dave Rennie have imagined a disappointed Wallabies change room would be one of his favourite images in the aftermath of a Bledisloe Cup classic.

But that's what he has been left with after an incredible 16-16 draw with the All Blacks which stretched into the 89th minute at Wellington Stadium on Sunday.

The boot of Reece Hodge brought Australia within millimetres of winning a game for the ages against the All Blacks, with a last-ditch penalty attempt from 55 metres out hitting the uprights and rebounding back into the field of play.

There it stayed for nine minutes after the full-time siren - but one moment soon after the kick is set to put the shaky performance of Kiwi referee Paul Williams under scrutiny.

All Black Tupou Vaa'i entered a ruck from the side and had hands in the ruck, but it went unpunished. A penalty would have given the Wallabies a shot at goal from 10 metres out in front of the posts.

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"For us, it's going to be how we back up. What I liked seeing is the disappointment of the guys in the change room," Rennie said.

"There are three Tests left, we had to win three anyway, and now we still have to win two. From that perspective, it's not a bad result, but we're certainly not satisfied with a draw.

"We're miles away from where we could be. What was going to be important today was our character, we knew it wouldn't be perfect. We've put a lot of information in in the first couple of weeks, and we have just tried to get a lot of repetition and clarity this week.

"We'll grow our game. It was never going to be perfect, it was always going to be around the character of the group shown. The key thing for us is we've got to back it up next week."

The betting markets installed the tourists as $7 rank outsiders to suggest there were perhaps few outside Wallabies camp who genuinely believed an upset was within the realms of reality.

The Wallabies showed plenty of promise to spark hopes of an Australian rugby revival. Picture: Getty

The Wallabies showed plenty of promise to spark hopes of an Australian rugby revival. Picture: Getty

For all the talk of a new era, patience is needed for a new Wallabies group whose starting XV featured just two players from their World Cup quarter-final exit last year.

Indeed, Rennie's first assignment as Australian coach looms as a Dave versus Goliath battle. This clash marked the first of four clashes in a five-week span between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

The first outing planted seeds of hope. The Wallabies dominated possession and had golden opportunities to steal the win that would to spark dreams of an Australian rugby revival.

Tries to Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith put the All Blacks 10 points clear in the second half before the visitors hit back via Marika Koroibete and debutant Filipo Daugunu.

A James O'Connor penalty saw the visitors kick three points clear with six minutes left, before Barrett returned serve in the 78th minute after Rob Simmons was penalised for changing his bind in a driving maul.

Hodge's long-range attempt hurtled back into the field of play and both sides launched wave after wave of attacking raids before O'Connor put the ball into touch to close a pulsating affair.

"We're going to need more of that, because everyone is going to improve now with the benchmark set," Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.

"The good thing is now we've got pictures of where we can improve and how we can mark ourselves."

AT A GLANCE

Bledisloe Cup game one: ALL BLACKS 16 (Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith tries; Barrett 2 penalties) drew with WALLABIES 16 (Marika Koroibete, Filipo Daugunu tries; James O'Connor 2 penalties) at Wellington Stadium.

This story Wallabies rue missed chance in an epic first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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