Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

O'Connor the hero for Australia

James O'Connor

James O'Connor held his nerve to end Australia's miserable run against New Zealand as the winger converted his own last-gasp try to seal a dramatic 26-24 Bledisloe Cup victory at Hong Kong Stadium.

The Wallabies had not beaten their bitter rivals in the last 10 meetings and after having relinquished a 12-0 lead, it seemed an 11th consecutive defeat for Robbie Deans' men was on the cards.

But trailing 24-19 with the final hooter having sounded, Australia managed to keep the ball alive through several phases of play before O'Connor crashed over the line to level the scores. The young winger then kept his composure to strike the crucial conversion through the posts from the right touchline and clinch a famous victory for his side.

The Wallabies opened the scoring in the eighth minute when the ball was moved out to Quade Cooper on the left and the fly-half's angled run took him over in the corner, although Matt Giteau missed the conversion.

Australia extended their advantage to 12-0 in the 22nd minute when, following a lineout, Adam Ashley-Cooper broke a tackle in midfield to burst clear and score under the posts, with Giteau adding the extras.

That stirred the All Blacks into life and they finally got on the scoreboard on the half-hour mark. Jimmy Cowan picked up from the base of a ruck after Jerome Kaino had gained good ground and the scrum-half darted over, with Dan Carter adding the conversion.

New Zealand took the lead three minutes later as the ball was moved out to Kieran Read on the right and his short pass afforded Corey Jane the space for the winger to barge over the line from inside the 22, with Carter again adding the two points before slotting over from 45metres to give his side a 17-12 half-time lead.

Giteau missed another penalty before New Zealand extended their lead to 12 points in the 53rd minute. Richie McCaw shrugged off a couple of defenders to gain valuable yards and the ball was recycled for Ma'a Nonu to touch down, with Carter on target with the subsequent conversion.

Australia hit back just after the hour mark as Kurtley Beale's incisive run ended with the full-back off-loading to Drew Mitchell and he powered in at the corner. O'Connor reduced the deficit to five points with a fine conversion from the left touchline.

Australia continued to press for the try they needed and having kept the ball alive following the final hooter, O'Connor managed to force his way over the line from close in before kicking the winning conversion.

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