Lightning does strike twice after all, with the Wallabies again denying the All Blacks a record 18th consecutive Test win in a tense 12-12 draw in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
Two years ago, an 18-18 draw in Brisbane prevented the All Blacks matching the 18 straight wins by New Zealand from 1965-69 and South Africa’s 1997-98 outfit – and the first tryless Test in Sydney since 1979 denied the Kiwis again on Saturday night.
Wallabies five-eighth Kurtley Beale and All Blacks opposite Aaron Cruden both landed four penalty goals in wet and slippery conditions at ANZ Stadium.
South African Jaco Peyper’s pedantic and, at times, bemusing refereeing reduced the much-anticipated trans-Tasman showdown to a dour, stop-start affair in front of a 68,627 fans.
Despite ending a three-year losing run against New Zealand, the Wallabies still face rugby’s version of Mission Impossible to wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 12 years.
The Wallabies must win the final two Tests, including next Saturday’s at Auckland’s Eden Park, where the All Blacks haven’t lost since 1994.
The All Blacks played a quarter of Saturday’s match with only 14 players after prop Wyatt Crockett and replacement five-eighth Beauden Barrett were both sin-binned for cynical plays during the tense Rugby Championship opener.
The Wallabies, though, were unable to capitalise and were left to rue a succession of missed opportunities in the second half.
Israel Folau squandered Australia’s best try-scoring chance in the 54th minute.
Under pressure, Cruden’s attempted clearing kick from inside the New Zealand in-goal area landed straight down Folau’s throat 30 metres out from the All Blacks line.
But with a three-man overlap, the fullback’s wild pass flew over Beale’s head and it was opportunity lost.
The Wallabies had to settle for another Beale penalty goal instead, which tied the match up, but Cruden replied two minutes later to nudge the All Blacks back ahead 12-9 after an hour.
Moments later, after multiple phases on the New Zealand line, Wallabies winger Pat McCabe seemed certain to score only to be piled into touch.
A surprise selection as starting No.10, Beale had a mixed night but locked the match up at 12-12 with his fourth penalty 10 minutes from fulltime.
True to their word, the Wallabies showed their attacking intent throughout a stop-start first half.
They spread the ball from one side to the other in the opening minutes of the match before skipper Michael Hooper, pushing for a try rather than a gift three points, three times spurned shots at penalty goal in the shadows of halftime.
But even with the All Blacks a man short after Crocket’s sin-binning, the Wallabies were unable to capitalise.
Hooper finally opted for a shot at goal after the halftime siren sounded, but Beale’s kick from 15 metres to the left struck the upright, leaving the Wallabies 9-3 down at the break.
Beale made no mistake with his next shot five minutes into the second half to narrow the deficit to three points after All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was penalised – but not yellow carded – for snuffing out a Wallabies tryscoring opportunity from an offside position.