Wow! Dunedin seems to have a thing for last-minute finishes between the All Blacks and the Wallabies; although the latter team hasn't won in the city since 2001. Although Ian Foster's win ratio as the All Blacks' coach is up to 71% after his final home game in charge, he'll have his mind firmly on which players may be axed before the Rugby World Cup, following a 3-17 half-time losing margin. Experienced players later came on, to save the day, before Richie Mo'unga confirmed the 23-20 win off the tee, with just a minute to spare.
There's no time to spare, there's a lot to unpack, so let's examine the statistics and key discussion points behind the comeback, by rating each player from jersey number 1 through to 23, to see how they went.
ALL BLACKS PLAYER RATINGS
After a mixed effort on debut, has Chiefs flyer Shaun Stevenson (centre) done enough to get selected for the Rugby World Cup? Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (6/10)
Went well around the pitch, though his huge height advantage over Nepo Laulala did give the team a tough time in the scrum. Hopefully the selectors will take note. Williams will be satisfied with 8/10 tackles and 2 defenders beaten off 2 tight carries.
Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (7/10)
Starting for the first time in 2023, Taukei'aho was his usual self around the park for 17 metres and 1 defender beaten off 8 carries, while also providing a high tackle count of 16. Was uncharacteristic around the set-piece however, were the 3 botched lineouts just an off day?
Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (4/10)
In his final home game as an All Black, Laulala was looking a little slow, failing to gain a metre off his lone carry, also producing a low tackle count of 4/6 from 49 minutes played. A bright spot was his distribution game, for 4 total passes.
Lock 4 - Brodie Retallick (5/10)
While the Hawke's Bay man was looking fit for 32 years old, he'll face an anxious wait after limping off injured in the 26th minute. Completed 4/4 tackles and won 1 turnover whilst still on the pitch. Will hopefully be fit for the Rugby World Cup.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (9/10)
What happened to the old fossil who's day as a starter was done? Despite the grey hairs, Whitelock is ageless. He crossed the gainline for 4 metres off each of his 4 carries, before displaying herculean defence in his 17/17 tackles and whopping 3 turnovers. Just 3 games to go before equalling Richie McCaw's record.
Blindside Flanker - Samipeni Finau (9/10)
To beat his Chiefs teammate Josh Lord to the World Cup, Finau needed a monster shift, and BOY did he deliver! Charged with heart at the Wallabies for 46 metres and 1 defender beaten off 10 carries, scoring a try on debut, while topping the tackle count with 19/21. Asked to do his best impression of Shannon Frizell, the need for a third lock at 6, isn't a worry for the coaches thanks to Finau.
Openside Flanker - Sam Cane (7/10)
Stating the facts about the All Blacks' defence post-game, I don't think Cane's comments should apply to himself. Met Finau's 19/21 tackles, while also contributing to the passing game with 5, as well as 2 offloads. Probably needed him at the breakdown a bit more?
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (9/10)
It's genuinely scary that such excellent performances are normal from Savea. At it again with 58 metres, 3 defenders beaten, 7 carries, 4 passes, 1 offload, 15/16 tackles, 4 turnovers won and even a kicking game, he's peaking perfectly before the World Cup. The heartbeat of the spine.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (3/10)
Should All Blacks XV captain, Brad Weber, go well for Hawke's Bay this evening, Christie may be anxious. His slowness at the breakdown provided several counter rucking chances for Australia, who were definitely dominant up-front to start. Made 4/5 tackles.
First Five - Damian McKenzie (4/10)
My fellow Chiefs fans will have liked to see McKenzie's 62 metres, 4 defenders beaten and 20 passes, but he'll be disgruntled with a rate of 4/7 tackles. His lack of cohesion with Christie was rather obvious as well, with control of the game very erratic. Could five midfielders go to France at McKenzie's expense?
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (8/10)
Wasn't given a lot of ball in the first half, but made it count every time. Fainga'anuku's stat sheet showed off 74 metres, 5 defenders beaten, 2 clean breaks, 12 carries, 3 passes and 1 offload, while it was good to see his boot in use on occasion. Provided a decent impression of Caleb Clarke at the breakdown, so his World Cup hopes remain alive.
Second Five - Anton Lienert-Brown (6/10)
Forced to run it straight with a lack of space on his 7 carries, Lienert-Brown was kept into an industrious state of play but kept it going for 4 passes, 1 offload and 7/8 tackles. Will have pencilled his name in for World Cup selection by assisting the team with his kicking game.
Centre - Braydon Ennor (8/10)
Despite low numbers, Ennor's 39 minutes were dedicated to a full stat sheet, as he went well with every involvement before he came off injured. Behind a backwards pack, 27 metres, 2 defenders beaten, 1 clean break, 4 carries, 3 passes, 1 offload, 5 crunching tackles and 1 turnover are a proud effort for Ennor, who may take McKenzie's World Cup squad if he isn't ruled out due to injury.
Right Wing - Shaun Stevenson (6/10)
Not completely ideal. Stevenson had a tough first half behind a subpar set-piece and it showed when he made handling errors and bit in too early, prior to Tom Hooper's try. Although he found redemption with 10 tackles, 77 metres and a try on debut from 9 carries, has he done enough to get to France?
Fullback - Will Jordan (9/10)
This was a team missing Jordie Barrett's defence very badly, but it didn't stop Jordan from doing what he does best with ball-in-hand. Operating as an extra playmaker, Jordan made 17 passes, while stringing together a game-high 145 metres, as well as 2 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off a good total of 14 carries. Jordan's World Cup selection is assured.
Reserve Hooker - Dane Coles (6/10)
Summed his career up with accurate lineout throwing, lippy behaviour at the scrum and of course, a few nice carries for 9 metres off the 5 of them. Having played his final match on home soil, Coles' legacy is cemented.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (8/10)
A little inactive on defence thanks to a high rate of 66% possession in the second half, so got the chance to do what he does best. Ever-present at the breakdown, Tu'ungafasi provided 4 strong carries and truly fixed the scrum alongside Newell, as they worked together to save the game.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (9/10)
Ladies and gents, the 23-year-old is about to attend the Rugby World Cup, having played a mere 80 minutes all season. That's how good he was in the scrum. Nailed 5/5 tackles despite the high possession rate, to confirm his promise for the years to come.
Reserve Lock - Tupou Vaa'i (5/10)
Not the best game of his career, but you can't be the superstar every time. Confined to just 4 metres off 7 carries, Vaa'i made up for this via 6 passes and 1 offload. Vaa'i was active as a lineout lifter that helped Finau, also making 4/4 tackles.
Reserve Loose Forward - Luke Jacobson (No rating)
Jacobson replaced Cane with just 10 minutes left, so didn't play enough to be rated.
Reserve Halfback - Aaron Smith (8/10)
Ecstatic to take the win on his home grounds, Smith roared in happiness at the end. He gave the crowd an entertaining 28 metres, as he also beat 1 defender and made 1 clean break off just 2 carries. The team looked far more settled under the veteran's control.
Reserve First Five - Richie Mo'unga (9/10)
Copy and paste the comments on Smith's game control then apply them to Mo'unga too. The context of the stats matter most, his 13 metres, 3 carries, 5 passes and 2/2 tackles added huge value, as he confirmed the win by reaching a career tally of 406 points. The starting 10 without a doubt.
Reserve Midfielder - Dallas McLeod (5/10)
With gaps a bit tough to find in midfield, McLeod was only able to manage 1 metre, 1 defender beaten, 1 carry, 1 pass and 4/6 tackles. Hopefully the lack of opportunities won't harm his chances for being called up to France as injury cover, as he remained composed.