22 Oct 2012

All Blacks draw with Wallabies

6:33 am on 22 October 2012

Kiwi-turned-Australian Mike Harris kicked the Wallabies to a an 18-18 draw with the All Blacks on Saturday night, denying the World Cup holders a Bledisloe whitewash at Suncorp Stadium.

Harris slotted five penalty goals from as many attempts while Kurtly Beale kicked a penalty from half way.

In a nail-biting finish where the result could have gone either way, All Blacks maestro Dan Carter narrowly missed a match-winning field goal four minutes after the hooter sounded.

It denied New Zealand a record-equalling 17th straight tier-one test win.

Despite being a tryless affair, the sell-out 51,888 crowd was captivated by the ebbs and flows of an encounter both sides looked set to clinch at different times.

The injury-ravaged Wallabies, 13-point underdogs, had threatened to produce one of the biggest upsets in Australian Test history when they led 15-6 after 50 minutes.

But the momentum turned viciously as flanker Michael Hooper was sin-binned and Carter kicked four straight penalties to grab a three-point lead with 10 minutes left.

While Auckland product and former New Zealand Under-20 playmaker Harris, playing his first trans-Tasman Test for Australia, levelled the scores with five minutes left, Australia desperately tried to seal the result.

They set up for a field goal of their own through countless pick-and-drives in the All Blacks quarter but Kurtley Beale never got the chance for a heroic attempt as prop Sekope Kepu was penalised for leaving his feet.

Carter missed two penalty attempts he'd normally bury, the All Blacks wasted gilt-edged attacking opportunities through poor handling and the Wallabies won the breakdown battle.

But their inability to punish the All Blacks early in the second half when prop Tony Woodcock was sin-binned was a telling sign.

Kiwi No.8 Kieran Read was a justified man-of-the-match while Beale was Australia's most dangerous player and skipper Nathan Sharpe starred in his final match on home soil.

In a sometimes heated clash, Richie McCaw was singled out for special treatment from Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham, who could be in trouble post-match after kneeing and head-butting the All Blacks skipper.

After the match the All Black hooker Kevin Mealamu was awarded a silver cap by his skipper, his 100th test cap.

Meanwhile, a Scott Higginbotham "cheap shot" on All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has infuriated the All Blacks who are bewildered by the lack of protection for their skipper.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's frustrations bubbled over after Higginbotham escaped without punishment for kneeing McCaw in the head before head-butting him in the 26th minute.

The New Zealand flanker was penalised for leaving his feet in a ruck before the Wallabies No.6 took matters into his own hands in a scuffle.

The incident revived memories of Quade Cooper's knee to McCaw's head at the same ground 14 months ago when the Wallabies playmaker escaped the next day when exonerated at a judicial hearing.

Higginbotham would front a judicial hearing on Tuesday if cited by the match commissioner.

Springboks prop Dean Greyling copped a two-week ban, which effectively was a one-Test

suspension, after he was found guilty of striking McCaw last month.

Greyling's elbow appeared more blatant and heavier contact was made but sentences have been inconsistent.