MELBOURNE, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Australia rebounded from humiliation in Sydney to edge a 24-22 thriller over New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday, holding firm in a bruising Tri-Nations clash featuring a red card for both sides.
Having suffered a record 43-5 thrashing to surrender the Bledisloe Cup to the All Blacks a week ago, the Wallabies lifted their work-rate at Lang Park to salvage pride in the finale of the teams’ four-test series.
High tackles put both sides a man down before the break, and the All Blacks were reduced to 13 when lock Scott Barrett was handed a yellow card late in the second half.
The Wallabies’ punished Barrett’s transgression with prop Taniela Tupou diving over for a try five minutes from the siren, and Hodge’s conversion gave the home side a precious nine-point lead.
All Blacks lock Tupou Vaa’i, a late replacement on the bench after Patrick Tuipulotu was withdrawn, put his side within reach of a last-gasp victory when he crossed in the 79th minute.
But Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete laid two brilliant tackles in the dying seconds to turn the ball over and secure an epic victory for prop James Slipper’s 100th test.
The result breathed life into the Tri-Nations, with Argentina set to join the fray next week against the All Blacks in Sydney.
“That was a wild game, I didn’t expect anything less,” said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.
“It’s a good response from last week. Disappointing that we’ve got that in us and the (Bledisloe) series is over but we’ll take that one for sure.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie had demanded a response after the horror show at Olympic stadium and his players were quick to deliver at Lang Park, where they have now won three of their last five matches against the All Blacks.
Debutant winger Liam Wright scored a try with his first touch in the third minute, set up by fullback Tom Banks who flicked the ball wide after running onto a deft chip kick by makeshift flyhalf Reece Hodge.
The All Blacks hit back six minutes later, though, through winger Rieko Ioane, who crossed at the left corner after 15 phases of pressure.
The game threatened to fizzle out when All Blacks prop Ofa Tuungafasi was red-carded for a shoulder charge on Wright in the 23rd minute.
But only 12 minutes later, fiery flanker Lachlan Swinton became the first Australian to be red-carded on his test debut when he planted a shoulder into the jaw of Sam Whitelock.
Australian referee Nic Berry reached for his pocket a third time to give Koroibete a yellow card on the halftime siren for a messy cleanout as Slipper came off wincing with an arm injury.
Held to 8-8 at the break, the All Blacks ramped up the pressure when hooker Codie Taylor rumbled over from a lineout drive.
But three second half penalties from Hodge kept the Wallabies in touch.
Barrett had himself sent off with a needless hand in the ruck, allowing Tupou to break the game open with a couple of explosive line-breaks before he dived over from a metre out to plant the winning try.
“I thought they were pretty clinical at times and deserved to win tonight,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
“What difference a week in sport can make. The Tri-Nations is all alive now.” (Editing by Jason Neely and Christian Radnedge)
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