Bledisloe Cup 2020: All Blacks, Wallabies play out pulsating draw in series opener

New Zealand and Australia have played out a pulsating extra nine minutes, but could not break a 16-16 deadlock in the Bledisloe Cup opener at Wellington.

Emerging from the shadow of COVID-19, the trans-Tasman rivals staged a stunning finish to match that swung one way and then the other over the final stages, as each side desperately chased victory.

With two minutes left in regulation time, Jordie Barrett slotted a penalty from in front of the posts to level the scores, but the drama was really only beginning, as referee Paul Williams presented the Wallabies with a chase to snatch victory after the fulltime siren.

When the All Blacks were penalised at a breakdown on the Wallabies' side of halfway, Reece Hodge stepped up for a long-range attempt at goal that hit the right upright and bounced back into the field of play.

Australia swarmed onto attack, New Zealand defended and counterattacked, progressing upfield with a chance to win deep into overtime.

Finally, with players gasping for oxygen, the All Blacks lost control of the ball, and their rivals sought the safety of touch and shared honours.

Both side entered the contest with new coaches at the helm and former Chiefs mastermind Dave Rennie will have gained early kudos from his Australian bosses. NZ counterpart Ian Foster will have mixed feelings about the result.

After losing fullback Beauden Barrett (injury) and prop Nepo Laulala (personal reasons) within 24 hours before kickoff, the All Blacks struck first and seemed to have the game in hand late in the opening half.

Jordie Barrett scored a try in the corner and slotted a penalty for an early 8-0 lead and although James O'Connor narrowed the deficit with a penalty, New Zealand appeared to stamp their authority with halftime closing.

From an attacking lineout, the Wallabies threw a loose pass that was snapped up by All Blacks skipper Sam Cane, who sparked a counterattack that ended with Rieko Ioane diving for what seemed like a spectacular try.

Replays showed Ioane failed to force the ball and the try was disallowed.

Soon after the restart, halfback Aaron Smith finished off an All Blacks lineout move - it looked like the same one Australia had botched moments earlier - to stretch the lead into double figures.

But with the elements at their backs, the Wallabies responded, as wingers Marika Korobite and Filipo Daugunu both crossed for tries.

Richie Mo'unga in action for the All Blacks
Richie Mo'unga in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

With six minutes left, O'Connor slotted his second penalty to edge Australia ahead, before Barrett responded and both sides began their desperate bid for victory.

The outcome sets the scene for a tense encounter next week at Auckland's Eden Park, where the All Blacks haven't lost since 1994 and haven't lost to Australia since eight years before that.

New Zealand 16 (Smith & Barrett tries; Barrett 2 penalties) Australia 16 (Korobite & Daugunu tries; O'Connor  2 penalties)

Join us at 4pm next Sunday for live updates of the second All Blacks v Australia Bledisloe test