All Blacks seal it at the death to complete stunning come-from-behind victory over Wallabies

New Zealand's Will Jordan runs with the ball during the Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup Test match against Australia at Forsyth Barr Stadium

New Zealand's Will Jordan (second from right) runs with the ball during the Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup Test match against Australia at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on August 5, 2023. Picture: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP

Published Aug 5, 2023


The All Blacks surged back from a 14-point deficit to beat Australia 23-20 in Dunedin on Saturday and maintain their winning form ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Trailing 17-3 at halftime, New Zealand responded with two unanswered tries in the second half and a 79th minute penalty to Richie Mo'unga to run down opponents they'd beaten 38-7 in Melbourne last week.

Both All Blacks tries went to debutants, winger Shaun Stevenson and flanker Samipeni Finau, as they put an error-prone first half behind them and sealed victory when flyhalf Mo'unga landed his angled penalty shot from 35m out.

It was a heartbreaking result but an encouraging performance from the Wallabies, who remain winless under Eddie Jones since he returned this year for his second stint in charge.

A vastly inexperienced side, led by new captain Tate McDermott, crossed for two tries in the first seven minutes and threatened to produce a first win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil since 2001.

But an All Blacks side featuring 12 starting chances held their nerve to make it four wins from four this year and extend their unbeaten streak to 11 Tests.

It was their patchiest performance of the year, with greater cohesion achieved in the second half when experienced halves Mo'unga and Aaron Smith were introduced off the bench.

Captain Sam Cane conceded the All Blacks had been pushed to the limit.

"That was a proper Test match, they were firing all the shots in the first half, to be fair, we were just hanging in there. They took it to us in a big way," he said.

"I'm really proud of the composure and the way we fought our way back.

"We showed composure and the ability to grind our way back into the game when we were under a fair bit of pressure.”

Flyhalf Damian McKenzie was guilty of wayward kicking and replaced early in the second half after being outplayed by inexperienced opposite Carter Gordon.

Gordon's retention was staunchly defended by Jones in the leadup following a mixed performance in Melbourne, when New Zealand comfortably retained the Bledisloe Cup.

McDermott said defeat was difficult to take.

"That first half showed what type of team we can be, but we have to play more than 40 minutes," he said.

"We're gutted, but this gives us confidence that we are heading in the right direction.

"Credit to the All Blacks, the way they came out in the second half. It was a tough one. I'm really proud of that effort.”

The visitors snatched early command and silenced a crowd of 28,265 with near-identical tries in the left corner, both converted by Gordon.

The first went to winger Marika Koroibete, before flanker Tom Hooper barrelled over minutes later following a break from fullback Andrew Kellaway.

Australia had the better of the remainder of the first half, coming close to a third try when McDermott was held up over the tryline, but the only further points were a penalty each to Gordon and McKenzie.

The passes began to stick after halftime and Stevenson crossed in the right corner before a Mo'unga penalty closed the gap further.

Gordon hit the post with a straightforward penalty shot before New Zealand hit the front when the muscular Finau barged across in the 64th minute.

Replacement flyhalf Cooper kept his nerve with a 48m penalty to level the scores with seven minutes remaining before Mo'unga landed the winning goal.