New Zealand snatched a controversial win over Australia as Jordie Barrett's 81st-minute try put them in pole position in the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand snatched a controversial win over Australia on Thursday as Jordie Barrett's 81st-minute try put them in pole position in the Rugby Championship.
Australia had fought back from 18 points down to take the lead via Nic White's long-range 77th-minute penalty.
When Lalakai Foketi secured a turnover penalty in front of his own posts, it seemed the hosts had claimed the win.
But referee Mathieu Raynal reversed his call for time-wasting to give New Zealand the chance to land a late blow.
A series of forward rumbles from the visitors sucked in the home defence and when the ball was spun wide, Barrett had space to slide over and spark delight among his team-mates in Melbourne.
Raynal, who had given New Zealand a scrum after judging that Australia fly-half Bernard Foley had taken too long lining up his kick to touch, departed the pitch to a chorus of cat-calls.
"Absolutely gutted," said Australia captain James Slipper to Stan Sport.
"I don't know what to say. We really wanted to put in a performance. That is probably the most gutting way to finish a game."
Australia coach Dave Rennie said: "Of course the clock stopped, so there was no real urgency to do that.
"It lacks a little bit of feel for such an important moment in the game."
Victory puts New Zealand clear at the top of the Rugby Championship table as they attempt to retain their southern hemisphere crown and ensures they retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 20th straight year.
Australia will try to take revenge in the teams' final-round meeting at Eden Park on 24 September.
It was a match that thrilled even before kick-off as Australia delighted the Melbourne crowd by forming into a boomerang shape and advancing on the All Blacks' haka.
However, a mistake by second row Jed Holloway in gathering the kick-off and Samisoni Taukei'aho's try at the back of a driven maul punctured the early optimism in the stands.
Gradually Australia fought their way back into the game and the ever-impressive number eight Rob Valetini slipped past prop Ethan de Groot and slid between the legs of Sam Whitelock to pull them level on the scoreboard.
After the break, it seemed Australia's indiscipline might have undone that hard work.
New Zealand scored three tries in 15 minutes, with Taukei'aho adding a second before Richie Mo'unga and Will Jordan crossed, as a trio of home players spent time in the sin-bin.
That blitz put the All Blacks 31-13 up and almost out of sight.
Had Australia second row Darcy Swain seen red, rather than yellow, for twisting replacement Quinn Tupaea's knee, the game might well have been lost.
Instead, restored to a full 15 players, the hosts roared back with full-back Andrew Kellaway twice combining with fly-half Foley to score before Peter Samu plunged over and Foley converted to level things up once more at 34-34 with five minutes to go.
Former Exeter scrum-half White looked set to be the match-winner after his monster penalty. Instead he led Australia's protests as Raynal's call for a rare offence proved key.
Argentina play world champions South Africa on Saturday in the other fifth-round match.