Tri Nations 2002
Wallabies retain Bledisloe in thriller
August 3, 2002
Mat Rogers celebrates after winning the game for the Wallabies
© Getty Images
Australia have retained the Bledisloe Cup and kept their Tri Nations chances alive with a 16-14 victory over New Zealand in Sydney.
Wallaby outside-centre Matt Burke slotted a penalty after the siren had sounded to inflict Bledisloe devastation on the All Blacks yet again. It follows John Eales' penalty at Wellington in 2000 and Toutai Kefu's match-winning try in Sydney last year.
It was the Wallabies' eighth win against the All Blacks in 11 games, while it was John Mitchell's first loss in 10 games as All Blacks coach. The Wallaby victory also means the Tri Nations is still up for grabs with even the Springboks having an outside chance of taking the title providing they win the final two games in South Africa.
The All Blacks looked to have the game won with a 14-8 lead on 71 minutes after trailing 8-3 at half-time. The Wallabies fell asleep in the second half, but a jinking try to league convert Mat Rogers in the 71st minute ensured a tense finish.
And certainly so when Burke's simple conversion hit the upright to leave the All Blacks in front 14-13.
The Wallabies scored two tries to one, but the boot of Andrew Mehrtens almost proved the difference with three penalties. Burke managed just one from two, but none are likely to be as memorable as his final kick.
The Wallabies should have had a greater lead at half-time if not for a series of turnovers and a poor decision by South African referee Andre Watson to deny Wallaby hooker Jeremy Paul a try in the 31st minute.
Watson judged that Wallaby prop Patricio Noriega obstructed the defence getting across to Paul from a ruck just short of the line, but replays suggested otherwise. As it was the decision did not matter.
What mattered was how the Wallabies collapsed after half-time following a dominant first half. Lock Nathan Sharpe put the Wallabies ahead 5-0 in the 16th minute with Burke adding his first penalty in the 35th minute for an 8-3 lead.
Mehrtens then put the All Blacks on the board with a penalty just before the break. And it was enough to spark his side into action as they totally controlled the game for the 30 minutes after half-time.
Mehrtens reduced the lead to 8-6 with a penalty in the 46th minute, then a mistake by the Wallabies on their own lineout close to the tryline allowed All Blacks flanker Richard McCaw to score the easiest of tries and hand his side an 11-8 lead.
The All Blacks had all the momentum from that point with the entire game played in opposition territory as the Wallabies blundered from one turnover and penalty to another.
The All Blacks were quite happy to kick possession back to the Wallabies who struggled under the pressure and with only some scrambling defence saving the day.
But for all their dominance during this period, the All Blacks could manage just three points through a Mehrtens penalty in the 51st minute.
"There's something about this place, it always seems to go down to the final minute," said Australian skipper George Gregan.
"It was a real heartbreaker," said All Blacks skipper Reuben Thorne. "We always knew it was going to be a close one. It's a tough loss."
AUSTRALIA 16 Tries: Nathan Sharpe, Mat Rogers Goals: Matthew Burke 2 pen
NEW ZEALAND 14 Try: Richard McCall try Goals: Andrew Mehrtens 3 pen
Crowd: 79,543 At Telstra Stadium Referee: Andre Watson