Disgrace that robbed Wallabies of erasing 19 years of pain
It took just 80 minutes - no, make that 88 - for Australia to fall in love with rugby again.
The code has been to hell and back over the past two years but Sunday's nail biting 16-16 draw with New Zealand has ushered in a new era of hope for long-suffering Wallaby supporters.
True to his word, new coach Dave Rennie delivered in his first match in charge, masterminding what should have been Australia's first win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil in 19 years.
It was only the dud officiating and a coat of paint after Reece Hodge's long-range penalty struck the post that saw the teams share the spoils but make no mistake about it.
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This was a moral victory for the Wallabies and a dagger to the heart of the arrogant New Zealand officials who said Australia's players aren't good enough to share the same field as them.
The All Blacks' aura has been tarnished but they will come back harder than ever in next week's second test at Eden Park but with the final two matches of the four game series to be played in Australia, the Bledisloe Cup could be heading back to Australian shores sooner than most people expected.
No-one gave the Wallabies a shot at beating the All Blacks but under Rennie, they produced the sort of performance that the game's followers have been crying out for years.
The fancy moves and the desperate hail-Mary plays that have made the Wallabies easybeats for teams with half a brain were non-existent as the team went back to basics, tackling themselves to a standstill and keeping themselves in the contest through sheer force of will and astute kicking.
Trailing by 10 points after the All Blacks scored the first two tries - neither which should have been allowed - through Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith, the Wallabies could easily have reverted back to their old ways but instead they knuckled down and replied with two electrifying tries of their own - from Marika Marika Koroeibete and Filipo Daugunu - to set up a grandstand finish.
A penalty from James O'Connor gave the Wallabies a 16-13 lead which Barrett cancelled out with a three-pointer in the last minute of regular time, but that wasn't the end of the drama.
Hodge attempted a penalty from 60 metres out that would have won the game before a mix up over who should try for a field goal ended with the Wallabies losing possession then defending their own line as though their lives depended on it just to salvage a draw.
"We were under the pump early but I thought we defended well for big chunks of the game," Rennie said.
The ref decided NO he ain't gone baby the All Blacks no more😂😂💀💀 sucks the #Wallabies didn't get a win here yesses!!!!— #KingShakaZulu's Daughter✊🏾❤ (@Thembileeh) October 11, 2020
That's the worst refereeing display in a long time.Saw15 missed pen's in last 5min RT @wallabies: 80+ | Possession won back. We've got it on the half way line...— Derek Nickels (@dekmadforracing) October 11, 2020
🇳🇿 16-16 🇦🇺
Match Centre: https://t.co/pfiLBozUzY#NZLvAUS #BledisloeCup #Wallabies #YourTeam #OurJourney
Bloody hard to win in NZ but when you get repeated missed calls like that it’s impossible #Wallabies— Daniel Scherer (@iamdanscherer) October 11, 2020
Heart pumping stuff...that’s the #BledisloeCup rugby we’ve all signed up for. Terrific scrambling by #Wallabies to make ABs earn every metre and smart stuff too with kicking, top wing strikes, White, Toomua, JOC, Philip with fine games. More please. Well done Dave Rennie #NZvAUS— Jim Tucker (@HulaBulaJim) October 11, 2020
#BledisloeCup great game #Wallabies . I don’t mind drawing against the #AllBlacks , or even losing. They are a brilliant team that play like a machine. But to be constantly torpedoed by biased Refs is just wrong.— Pocket-sized Rudi (@IngSoc4ever) October 11, 2020
"We were able to apply pressure through our kick game and scored a couple of good tries at important times. We had our chance right at the death. It went off the post and then Rabs (O'Connor) was setting up for a drop goal and we ended up going wider. Then we had to suffer over the last couple over the last couple of minutes."
The real promise for the Wallabies is that they will only get better as they spend more time together and they were far from satisfied with the draw, admitting they had areas to work on, particularly at the lineout and the breakdown.
Three players - Daugunu, Harry Wilson and Hunter Paisami - all made their test debuts and looked right at home in the suffocating pressure cooker of international rugby.
And there are plenty more waiting in the wings, giving skipper Michael Hooper something to savour from the bittersweet finish to his 100th appearance in the gold jersey.
"It was a good start," he said. "I'm very proud of our team to fight all the way.
"We'll go again next week at Eden Park and we're up for the challenge. We played on top of them pretty well in the second half which was enjoyable.
"They found some space there, some good kicking options, a lot to like there. God I would have liked to close it out though.
"I won't forget that one in a hurry - that was wild at the end."
Originally published as Disgrace that robbed Wallabies of erasing 19 years of pain