Reece Hodge inspires Australia to tense Bledisloe Cup win over New Zealand

first_imgShare on LinkedIn Australia 23-18 New Zealand: third Bledisloe Cup Test – as it happened Read more Share on WhatsApp The Observer … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. match reports Share on Facebook Topics Fittingly it was a drenched Brisbane that saw the Wallabies end the most worrying drought in Australian sport. Reece Hodge was the toast of the crowd, scoring the opening try and then, after taking kicking duties from Bernard Foley, booming two late penalties, the second from inside his own half, to provide the difference between the sides.Even with the Bledisloe Cup decided and facing an All Blacks side with six of their first choice XV unavailable, it had the feeling of a pivotal match. After coming heartbreakingly close in Dunedin two months ago, the Wallabies could not have stomached another creditable defeat and now they can look to facing the All Blacks as rivals rather than whipping boys after snapping the seven-game losing run. The factors you need to beat New Zealand were there. An under-strength All Blacks XV: check. Being gifted a try: check. Scoring on stroke of half-time: check. But the Australian effort was immense and they deserved every bit of luck they were handed.“I felt like we had the fight in us tonight, we really wanted it,” the Wallabies coach, Michael Cheika, said. “I think it’s the only way: to put pressure on these guys.” Although the win marked a remarkable turnaround from the 54-34 humbling by their rivals in the Rugby Championship opener, Cheika did not think it balmed the sting of failing to end their 15-year wait for the Bledisloe Cup. “As enjoyable as it was, the disappointment of not winning the cup still resonates. We know New Zealand are going to only get better and we’ve got to keep improving as well.”Without Hodge taking kicking duties at the end of the game, things might have been different. Had the Wallabies lost, just as in Dunedin Bernard Foley would have shouldered much of the blame as his one from four success followed on from his two from six in the last Bledisloe Cup contest.After squeaking victories against Australia and South Africa – following first-game demolitions over the same opposition – the All Blacks perhaps pushed their luck once too often, with Beauden Barrett (out following a concussion) the absence they could not overcome.The visitors looked set to dominate early but Will Genia’s pressure forced an errant pass from Lima Sopoaga straight into the arms of Hodge who ran 75 metres to score under the posts.Between this try and the cusp of half-time the All Blacks dominated territorially as handling errors shackled the Wallabies, but the visitors could only put one try on the scoreboard when Aaron Smith fed Waisake Naholo on the touchline to dive over. Sapoaga converted from out wide to level the scores and his two penalty kicks gave them the lead.Moments before the interval, Israel Folau took a short pass from Kurtley Beale, showed the ball outside and shrugged off two tackles before diving over the line to reduce the arrears to 13-12. Read more Since you’re here… Rugby union Share on Pinterest Support The Guardian The second half got off to a stilted start following a long stoppage as the Wallabies lock Rob Simmons was stretchered off with a neck injury – not thought to be serious – but after the resumption the Wallabies grabbed the momentum once more.A pivotal moment came in the 55th minute when twice they turned down the opportunity to kick at goal and it paid off as two minutes later Marika Koroibete dived over inside the left touchline after Folau fed him five metres from the line. Characteristically, the All Blacks kept on the attack, but Hodge’s kick increased the lead to seven.With nine minutes on the clock, Sonny Bill Williams drew two tacklers before off-loading, enabling Rieko Ioane to dive over for a try in the corner. But with Sopoaga off, Damian McKenzie took the kick and failed to split the uprights.It seemed like a time-wasting strategy when Hodge took a kick from his own half on a damp pitch and a wet ball with two minutes remaining but the wing’s boot was true and cleared the posts with metres to spare.With a penalty just before the hooter, the All Blacks had a last chance to win from a lineout but their coach, Steve Hansen, conceded that would have been undeserved. “They were the better side,” he said. “They took their opportunities, put us under pressure as well and prevented us taking ours.”Hansen wants his players to reflect on their first defeat of 2017 before looking to reassert their dominance in the northern hemisphere. “We’ll use the hurt to grow,” Hansen said. “A lot of these guys it’s probably their first loss in an All Black jersey. It’s an experience you don’t wash away. You learn your lessons from it and we’ll become a better team for it. The sun will come out tomorrow.” Australia sport Bledisloe Cup Share on Twitter Leicester’s Matt Toomua: ‘My mind is firmly here, I want a few good years here’ Australia rugby union team Share via Email Share on Messenger New Zealand rugby union team Reuse this contentlast_img

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