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All Blacks winning run ends in draw 12-12 with Wallabies Early try proves difference as S. Africa edge Argentina

SYDNEY, Aug 16, (AFP): The All Blacks missed out on a world record winning streak when they were held to a 12-12 draw by the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday. The world champions were chasing a record 18 straight victories but were denied by their Bledisloe Cup rivals Australia in wet, slippery conditions at the Olympic stadium. The draw means the New Zealanders equalled but could not better the 17-Test winning runs of the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks. The match finished try-less with fly-halves Aaron Cruden and Kurtley Beale both kicking four penalties. “It’s certainly a bit of a hollow feeling,” All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said. “You come to win and it didn’t happen and probably at the end of the day we had the better of the first 30 minutes in the first half and then we struggled to play a lot of rugby after that for various reasons. “The good thing is that we have another crack next week in Auckland.”

The Wallabies had the chance to win the game when they had the ball deep inside New Zealand’s half in the final minutes but were unable to have a crack at a winning drop goal. “(The drop goal) was mentioned but we couldn’t get through that first phase. That was a problem for us all through the night,” Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper said. “We were pressuring them a lot, especially in that second half... We came up a few metres short a couple of times, which is a positive thing.” Australia, who trailed 9-3 at half-time, were much better in the second half and pulled level twice after the All Blacks were twice reduced to 14 men for 20 minutes through yellow cards.

The All Blacks’ winning run went back to December 2012 against England at Twickenham and they have still to lose a match in 13 matches in the third season of the Rugby Championship. The All Blacks relished the conditions and peppered the Wallabies with short and high kicks to keep them under pressure in their half. Cruden kicked a fourth-minute penalty and Kurtley Beale replied with a 40-metre penalty after Jerome Kaino was penalised for not staying on his feet. But New Zealand continued to crank up the pressure on the home defence and were rewarded when Matt Toomua was penalised for not releasing the ball and Cruden kicked his second penalty.
 
Cruden kicked the All Blacks to a 9-3 lead when the Wallabies’ scrum was penalised for collapsing. The Wallabies had their best chance in the final minutes of the opening half with loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett given a yellow card in the 39th minute for obstructing the ball. Beale’s penalty kick came back off the upright after the half-time siren which ultimately proved crucial as Australia again mounted another attack, only for Wycliff Palu to be tackled into touch to end the half. The Wallabies pegged back the deficit to three just after the resumption when McCaw was penalised for off-side and Beale landed the kick. White’s long kick into empty spaces had the All Blacks scurrying back to save, but the Wallabies got a penalty when Cory Jane was in front of Cruden’s rushed clearing kick and Beale levelled up the match at 9-9 in the 56th minute.
 
Cruden retrieved the lead with his fourth penalty minutes later after Hooper was caught for going off his feet. The Australians hit back with 14 phases inside New Zealand’s quarter which was ended when winger Pat McCabe was tackled into touch by Julian Savea and Ryan Crotty. The Wallabies pushed deep into New Zealand territory in the final minutes looking for the winning points but missed their chance of breaking the deadlock. The teams play each other again at Auckland’s Eden Park next weekend. A first minute try from Ruan Pienaar proved decisive as South Africa beat Argentina 13-6 in a rain-affected Rugby Championship test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday to record a winning start to the annual four-nation competition.
 
Pienaar’s early score suggested a possible repeat of last year’s runaway 73-13 home win for the Springboks over the South Americans but a heavy downpour soon after turned this year’s opening match for both countries into an unattractive contest. Handling errors and testy exchanges dominated the rest of the game as the converted try proved the difference with Handre Pollard and his replacement Morne Steyn both contributing a penalty while Nicolas Sanchez slotted over two of his own for the Pumas. Argentina had three good chances in the last five minutes to force a possible draw but defeat by seven points ensured some consolation in the form of a bonus point.

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