Australia snatches late win

Photosport     06 Aug 2006     Photosport

Australia held a 10-0 lead at halftime, with a fortuitous try to Wallabies winger Mark Gerrard the only bright spot in a dull opening stanza.

But the Springboks hit back with two tries in the second half to hold an 18-13 lead with five minutes to play before replacement first five-eighths Mat Rogers scored a late try to level the scores and centre Stirling Mortlock kicked the conversion from the sideline to give Australia a heart-stopping win.

The Springboks looked like a different side to the one thrashed 49-0 by the Wallabies in Brisbane three weeks ago, producing a much better defensive display and adding moments of enterprising attack.
In contrast, the Wallabies looked sloppy at times and almost lazy in defence and were perhaps lucky to come away with the win.

A dull first half was dominated by the boot, as both teams sought to gain territory through long-raking kicks downfield, with neither side gaining any real ascendancy.

Mortlock put Australia ahead with an easy penalty goal in the 12th minute before the Wallabies grabbed an opportunist's try when a cross-field kick from South African first five-eighths Butch James bounced directly into the arms of a flying Gerrard who sprinted 50 metres unopposed to dive over for the first five-pointer of the game.

Mortlock converted to put Australia out to the half time score of 10-0.

South Africa eventually got on the scoreboard five minutes into the second half courtesy of a James penalty goal.

James added a second just a minute later after South Africa had busted the Wallabies defence wide open down the middle with an eye-catching backline movement that saw centre Wynand Olivier romp into the clear. He found wing Akona Ndungane in support but a great covering tackle from George Gregan saved a certain try as he pulled up the winger 10 metres short of the line.

However, first five-eighths Stephen Larkham came into the ruck from the side and was penalised gifting James the three points to make it 10-6 to Australia.

But the momentum was with the visitors and they leapt into lead in the 55th minute when halfback Fourie du Preez pounced a mistake from the back of the Wallabies scrum. Gregan dropped a pass from No.8 Wycliff Palu and Du Preez toed the ball ahead, centre Jacque Fourie won the footrace and dived on the ball to force the try. James converted to put the visitors ahead 13-10.

Mortlock levelled the scores with 17 minutes left in the game before the Springboks regained the lead just three minutes later when Montgomery forced his way over for a try. The Springboks' fullback looked to be wrapped up 10 metres short of the line but he managed to stay on his feet and his support players pushed him over for the try.

Then the Wallabies hit back in the 75th minute when replacement flanker Phil Waugh, playing in his 50th Test match, romped inside the Springboks half and popped a nice ball over the top to Rogers who sprinted away to score in the corner and level the scores.

Mortlock's conversion from the sideline bounced off the left hand upright and dropped over the crossbar for the Wallabies to snatch a dramatic victory.

Australia 20 (Mark Gerrard, Mat Rogers tries; Stirling Mortlock con, 2 pen) South Africa 18 (Jacque Fourie, Percy Montgomery tries; Butch James con, 2 pen) HT: 10-0