The third edition of the Castle Rugby Championship kicked off on Saturday with a tantalizing clash between cross-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand in Sydney. There was a massive amount of excitement about the game, with New Zealand looking for their 18th win in a row to break the record for most test wins in succession. Their opponents, meanwhile, were aiming to continue the momentum gained from their June series win over France, and take a step towards winning their first Bledisloe Cup in 12 years.
The mood in the stadium was not hampered by the bad weather on the night, but the way the two teams played was heavily influenced by the rain. From the outset it was obvious that both teams would have to abandon their usual styles of play, that of attacking, exciting rugby. This game would take a different course. The All Blacks took an early lead when Aaron Cruden kicked a penalty over in the 3rd minute. 8 minutes later it was 3-3, with Kurtley Beale slotting a penalty of his own. After 21 minutes, however, New Zealand had started to dominate the encounter, and Cruden kicked another two penalties to make it 9-3 to the away side. That’s how they went into the break, after Beale missed a penalty at the end of the half. Richie McCaw and Sam Whitelock were the two standout performers in the half. The All Blacks did, however, have a man down after Wyatt Crockett was sin binned in the 38th minute, albeit very harshly.
Whatever happened in the Australians’ change room at half time worked, because they came out in the second half as a completely different team. They dominated from the outset and after 55 minutes, were back level after two more penalties from Beale. The rest of the match would be an arm wrestle, as neither side gave an inch, and the conditions made it the kind of game where you had to grind out a result. In the end, each team added one more penalty through the boots of their flyhalves, with the match ending in a tightly contested, but rather dull 12-12 draw.
Australia: Penalties: Kurtley Beale (4)
New Zealand: Penalties: Aaron Cruden (4)