Australia and New Zealand got a taste for the conditions that lie ahead at next year's Rugby World Cup when they battled to a 12-all draw in the opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup clash in wet Sydney on Saturday.
Unbeaten run ended
Two years ago the Wallabies halted the All Blacks winning run of 17 with an 18-all draw, and it was another draw against the same opposition yesterday that prevented Richie McCaw's team from making history with an 18th consecutive win.
In treacherous conditions not too dissimilar to what they are almost guaranteed to face during next season's World Cup, it was the Wallabies that enjoyed the best of the ball against their rivals.
All the points from the boot
Neither side managed to breach the other's defence with all the points coming from the boot of Kurtley Beale and Aaron Cruden in an error-ridden match levelled very much by the conditions.
Cruden continued his rich vein of form for the All Blacks with a composed kicking performance, keeping the Wallabies on the back foot and continuously giving his team the territorial advantage.
Australia made too many first-half mistakes in attack, surrendering their advantage and momentum in good attacking field positions far too often, something Ewen McKenzie will want to address before next week's return encounter.
Two yellow cards
They also failed to capitalise on two yellow cards dished out to New Zealand by referee Jaco Peyper. Wyatt Crockett was the first to go after making a big impact for the visitors, however after a period of dominance the Wallabies failed to convert the significant advantage, twice opting to kick for touch instead of taking the three points on offer, a decision they will now be ruing.
The Wallabies were more dominant in the second half, however the All Black defence stood firm and on reflection a draw was a fair result in very difficult conditions.
Beauden Barrett was carded with 10 minutes to go, however a swarming Wallaby attack failed once again to take advantage of the extra man, a real missed opportunity for Michael Hooper's team.
It isn't very often that an All Black team will play for 60 minutes of a match with 14 men, an advantage opposition teams need to press home when given the chance against the world champions, after-all it is almost impossible to beat them on level terms.
New Zealand remain unbeaten in their last eight matches against Australia, have not lost in Sydney since 2008 and have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.
Balance of power undecided
The conditions and the result failed to answer the question of the balance and where the power currently lies, and both teams will be hoping the return leg in Auckland will provide dryer conditions allowing them to showcase their obvious attacking flair and quality.
The result means that the All Blacks continue to share the record for most consecutive wins of 17 with Gary Teichmann’s 1997/98 Springbok team and two previous All Black sides,1960 and McCaw’s 2011/2012 team.
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