Tevita Kuridrani has scored a dramatic post-siren try to drag the Wallabies to a 24-20 win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday night.
In a case of genuine highway robbery, Australia snatched the scarcely-deserved win at the death with Kuridrani’s fifth Test try, muscling over the line and somehow sneaking the ball down amidst a mess of bodies more than a minute and a half into red time.
Video referee Ben Skeen pored over the footage and sparked near-bedlam amongst the 37,633 crowd at Suncorp Stadium – and the Wallabies players – when he gave the green light.
It was a tentative first step on the road to the World Cup with the scoreboard flattering the Wallabies, who only came back into the contest when South Africa rung the changes and swapped out their entire front row.
The ferocious Springboks were a class above for most of the night, easily winning the scrum battle, dominating the breakdown and standing firm at the right moments to pose a new set of questions to Australia coach Michael Cheika.
The win was soured by an injury to Will Genia, who limped off at half-time with a medial ligament strain in his knee and didn’t return, throwing a monkey wrench into Cheika’s playmaking plans.
Genia’s replacement, Nick Phipps, played out the match and depending on the severity of the injury may have the chance to stamp himself as Australia’s first-choice halfback in next weekend’s Test in Argentina.
But Cheika may opt to re-examine his options with Quade Cooper unconvincing and eventually shown up by his replacement at five-eighth, Matt Toomua, who helped straighten up the Wallabies in the last 15 minutes.
South Africa rode the trusty boot of Handre Pollard to a 6-0 lead but the Wallabies stormed in front with the first try of the match in the 33rd minute.
Straight from a line-out, the ball went from Genia to Matt Giteau and then to Cooper, who played a no-look inside ball for Adam Ashley-Cooper to power through and touch down next to the posts.
Cooper converted to give Australia a 7-5 lead, but five minutes later the Springboks went back in front when Bryan Habana cleverly batted back a high ball to Willie le Roux, who played in Eben Etzebeth.
Five minutes after the break, South Africa were in again as Jesse Kriel cut through Australia’s left side with ease, brushing off the advances of James Slipper and Israel Folau and throwing off Phipps to touch down.
The Wallabies struck back in the 73rd minute through Michael Hooper, closing the gap to 20-17, and then found enough petrol in the tank to will themselves to the win through Kuridrani’s late effort.