12 Oct 2020

Wallabies impress, All Blacks have work to do

8:17 am on 12 October 2020

The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 but this year's series has been blown wide open following last night's 16-all draw in the opening test in Wellington.

Wallabies Reece Hodge. 2020.

Reece Hodge Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Wallabies, under new coach New Zealander Dave Rennie, were rank outsiders to upset the hosts but that's almost what they did, as new All Black coach Ian Foster's reign began with a fizzle rather than a roar.

A thrilling game of to and fro ending in a 16-all draw after nearly nine minutes of injury time, in which neither side could break the stalemate.

However, it could have been very different for the All Blacks, had centre Rieko Ioane not blown a certain try.

Ioane was unmarked and over the Australian's try line as halftime loomed, but he dropped the ball when trying to ground it.

It would have given the All Blacks a 10 or 12 point halftime lead, but Foster refused to blame the midfielder.

"We had a chance to win the game in the last 10 minutes and we weren't good enough to execute that," Foster said.

"You don't dwell on errors in test matches, there were a whole lot of errors before that and a whole lot of errors after that. He'll learn from it. There's no doubt it would have been nice (had Ioane scored) but it wasn't the reason we drew the game."

All Blacks Rieko Ioane dives in for a disallowed try. 2020.

Rieko Ioane Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Foster doesn't believe the result has damaged the All Blacks chances of retaining the Bledisloe.

"I don't think it puts us on the back foot, it means we've drawn the first one, and there's still three to go.

"So, I guess that turns it into a best of three Bledisloe which makes it nice and simple doesn't it, it means you've got to win two. Both teams will go away from that with a lot of positives and a lot of stuff they think they can do better."

All Blacks captain Sam Cane, in his first test as official skipper, experienced a range of emotions after the final whistle.

"Obviously bitter disappointment because we wanted to go out there and win. But I'm also really proud of the desire, the attitude, at the end the willingness to keep playing.

"Lots of emotions but as buggered as you are after a test match like that and a result like that, I'm aleady looking forward to the next one."

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu a little more blunt in his assessment of their performance.

"Quite a sombre feeling, a draw, it almost feels like a loss to us. It's not really up to our standard. I feel like it was a game that we didn't really play to test match level."

Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu. 2020.

Filipo Daugunu Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was content with his side's effort, but he knows they'll need to be better again if they're to challenge the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress.

New Zealand haven't lost at the ground since 1994, while the Wallabies haven't won there since 1986.

"Obviously the All Blacks have got a fantastic record there, but it's the same size field as everywhere else.

"Not a lot of travel for us to get there, it's not like it's at altitude or we're having to fly 18 hours to get there. We'll treat it like any other test and hopefully go one better."

Going one better and starting is what replacement wing Caleb Clarke might do next week after impressing off the bench in his debut for the All Blacks.

"It's pretty surreal. When you achieve such a big goal in your life it's a big process to take it all in. I'm still buzzing, I'm just so glad to tick off something so big in my life and it's just real special eh."

It was also special for born and bred Wellingtonian Rennie, despite his side coming within centimetres of winning the test, with Reece Hodge's 55 metre penalty attempt hitting the goal post in the third minute of injury time.

"Pretty special for me personally. I had my three sons and their partners and two granddaughers and a lot of really good friends in the stands all wearing yellow, which impressed me."

Rennie has made an impressive start to his tenure and if the Wallabies can beat the All Blacks at Eden Park on Sunday, his stocks will have never been higher.