Rugby Championship: Australia and New Zealand prove inseparable in Sydney
By Jonathan Doidge. Last Updated: 17/08/14 10:59am
The opening game of the 2014 Rugby Championship ended in a 12-12 stalemate between Australia and New Zealand, the first draw between the teams in 12 years.
Played in constant rain at the ANZ Stadium, conditions were always likely to make tryscoring difficult and so it proved, with all the game's points coming from penalty kicks.
Both teams had their chances to win, especially when their opponents had men in the sin-bin, but in the end neither could unlock each other's watertight defence sufficiently for a decisive play.
Australia never led in the contest, though they arguably finished the stronger and they may see this as a missed opportunity to take the points after what was the first draw between the teams in Australia since 1979.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie sprung a surprise before the game had kicked off, naming Kurtley Beale at fly-half ahead of Bernard Foley, while hooker Nathan Charles replaced the injured Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sam Carter returned at lock.
There were also changes for the All Blacks, with coach Steve Hansen dropping full back Isreal Dagg for the first time in three years. Instead, Ben Smith got the nod. Wyatt Crockett also replaced the injured Tony Woodcock up front.
New Zealand led through an early Aaron Cruden penalty, after Scott Fardy was penalised for an infringement at the ruck, but Beale levelled with the boot just eight minutes later.
Centre Matt Toomua was then pinged for failing to release the ball on the ground and Cruden was successful with his shot at goal both then and shortly afterwards from straight in front of the posts when the Wallabies were penalised at a scrum.
Crockett was sin-binned late in the first-half, giving Australia a man advantage for 10 minutes, though Beale hit the upright with a penalty attempt to leave his team trailing 3-9 at the break.
The Wallabies' goal-kicker came good five minutes into the second-half, when New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw – who became the first player to make 50 appearance in both the Tri-Nations and Rugby Championship tournaments – was penalised at the ruck.
The penalty-fest continued, with the Aussies again levelling the scores through Beale after the All Blacks were caught offside inside their own '22', though they were soon behind again courtesy of the boot of Cruden.
Kiwi replacement Beauden Barrett's sin-binning 10 minutes before the final hooter put his team under some heavy pressure, the penalty allowing Beale to restore parity on the scoreboard, with neither side able to break the deadlock.