Wallaby centre Tevita Kuridrani scored with the last play of the match to give Australia a dramatic 24-20 win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship match in Brisbane Saturday.
South Africa looked like they would hang on to win a pulsating Test match as the Wallabies threw everything at the tiring Springboks.
But with the 80 minutes of time up, the powerful Kuridrani crashed over in the arms of two Springbok defenders.
Referee Nigel Owen sent the decision to television match official Ben Skeen, who ruled Kuridrani had just managed to ground the ball.
South African coach Heyneke Meyer said the decision to award Kuridrani’s try could have gone either way.
“It depends on where you are sitting,” he said.
“It was 50-50, it could have gone either way, but that’srugby. We believe the referee is always right — maybe next time it will go our way.”
The Wallabies had looked second best for three-quarters of the match as the South African forwards dominated their Australian counterparts.
The visitors led 20-10 with six minutes to go but the longer the match went the more dangerous the Wallabies looked.
“The character was there tonight,” Wallaby captain Stephen Moore said.
“The effort, the belief to go to the end was there and that was something I was proud of.”
Flanker Michael Hooper scored in the 75th minute to narrow the gap to three points before Kuridrani’s heroics following Moore’s decision to take a line-out rather than a kickable penalty that would have tied the match.
Moore said later he had no hesitation going for the try.
“We wanted to win the game and there wasn’t much time left so I thought we’d have a crack and luckily it came off — other times it mightn’t have,” Moore said.
South Africa shaded the first half and opened the scoring with two Handre Pollard penalties.
The Wallabies struck back six minutes before the break from a brilliantly worked move from the line-out, which saw Matt Giteau playing first receiver and passing to Quade Cooper, who found Adam Ashley-Cooper on his inside, the right winger crossing for his 31st Test try. Cooper converted to make it 7-6 to the home side.
But four minutes later South Africa were back in front when Eben Etzebeth crashed over in the corner after Brian Habana climbed high over Israel Folau to tap the ball back to fullback Willie le Roux, who then found the towering Springbok lock who crashed over in the corner.
The Boks went further ahead four minutes after the restart when outside centre Jesse Kriel, playing his first Test, stormed onto the ball 20 metres out and beat three Australian defenders to score. Pollard’s conversion made it 20-7 to the visitors.
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika brought on Queensland forwards Greg Holmes and James Horwill with 25 minutes to go, and the Australian pack began to gain the upper hand.
Cheika conceded the replacements had made a big difference.
“I thought the front row reserves made a big difference when they came on, as did James Horwill, but that’s their role in the team,” he said.
A Cooper penalty from right in front made it 20-10 and he should have had another when the Wallabies won a rare scrum penalty, but he pulled it wide.
With time running out the Wallabies threw everything at the Boks and they were rewarded when Hooper burrowed his way over from close range.
Cooper’s conversion made it 20-17 with five minutes left.
But just as it looked like the Springboks were safe, Moore opted for the line-out and Kuridrani ensured it was the right decision.
Meyer said the South African players would learn from the narrow loss.
“Nobody gave us a chance (tonight),” he said.
“We had a lot of youngsters, we lost our captain early (when Victor Matfield went off with a hamstring strain), but I thought we played well.
“It was really heartbreaking. You have to be 100 per cent on your game to win away from home and the Wallabies proved that tonight.” – Agence France-Presse