Heard much about Reece Hodge?
You have now, after the Wallabies wing kicked a late long-range penalty to give his side a dramatic 23-18 win over the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Hodge kicked another long bomb 13 minutes earlier, but it was his cracker from 53 metres out, with just two minutes remaining, that sealed the result for the Aussies who snapped a seven-matching winning streak that stretched back to mid-2015.
This wasn’t a great test match in terms of precision and skills. Was it willing? Absolutely and some of the tackles from both teams were real teeth-rattlers; the shot from All Blacks’ replacement prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi on Bernard Foley was a ripper, the sort that makes nervous types cringe whenever this combative sport is mentioned around office water coolers.
However, the accuracy, from both sides, wasn’t great. Too many mistakes in the wet.
But while we’re being honest, let’s make sure we give the Wallabies their dues. They were bold and brave. This was never more evident than when captain Michael Hooper refused to give goal kicker Foley permission to take an easy penalty kick in the second half.
Instead Hooper ordered a lineout, and eventually the All Blacks defensive line was stretched to breaking point as finisher Marika Koroibete swept through the tackle of Damian McKenzie in the right pocket.
The All Blacks had their moments to land the sledgehammer blow, but just as it seemed inevitable that they would kick the door down they either turned the ball over, or conceded penalties.
Frustration was evident. Verbal spats almost erupted into scrapes, and hooker Dane Coles certainly kept his pre-match promise to have a yap to his opponents, and referee Wayne Barnes was vigilant for anyone not cleaning out correctly.
First five-eighth Lima Sopoaga was replaced in what appeared to be a tactical substitution in the 61st minute, and loosehead prop Kane Hames left the field with injury in the 31st minute after taking a head knock.
The Aussies drew first blood, thanks to halfback Will Genia scenting blood when the All Blacks tried to get too cute behind an attacking scrum on the 22m stripe.
The ball was swung right, and when it was switched back to the other side of the set-piece Genia pounced with force and timing; his spot tackle on Sopoaga forced the playmaker to rush his pass into the waiting hands of Hodge, who raced away to the posts.
The New Zealanders’ reply was swift, and clinical. Constructed from 11 phases involving pick-and-goes and short passes, after No 8 Kieran Read earned a ruck penalty to set-up an attacking lineout, the ball was eventually shifted to Waisake Naholo for the easiest of tries on the right wing.
A couple of Sopoaga penalties, one a 46m missile that pinged off the crossbar, extended the New Zealanders lead by six points prior to Wallabies fullback Israel Folau having the last word in the first half.
Having stretched the black defensive line, a try appeared inevitable if the Aussies improved their handling accuracy. They were up to that task.
During the buildup week, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen chirped a tune that would have had Matt Todd’s fans humming with joy. Todd, who had to withdraw from the substitutes bench because of a groin strain, is pushing Sam Cane for the top flanker’s job stated Hansen.
Fair call. Maybe that was why Cane ventured out onto Suncorp intent on taking the metaphorical scalpel to anything that moved in the opposition’s colours.
By halftime, Cane had made 12 tackles, some with such power that the recipients rose from the deck looking like they had just been forced to swallow a medicine ball.
Wallabies 23 (Reece Hodge, Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete tries; Bernard Foley con, Hodge 2 pen) All Blacks 18 (Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane tries; Lima Sopoaga con, 2 pen) HT: 12-13
This article originally appeared on Stuff.co.nz. Read the original here.
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