Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Record-breaking test hinges on controversy

Given what was at stake, and the recent history between these two teams, it seemed almost inevitable that this potential record-breaking test at Eden Park would hinge on one controversy or another.

In the end the All Blacks ran away with it to chalk their mark in history, and consign the Wallabies to another year of misery at this ground - 30 years without a win against the men in black, and counting.

But when Henry Speight's try just after halftime was ruled out by television match official Shaun Veldsman for obstruction by Dane Haylett-Petty on fellow wing Julian Savea this test was in the balance.

It was a poor decision on Haylett-Petty's part. Speight, who started on the left wing but was drafted into centre following the injury to Samu Kerevi, was away. He had the angle on Savea and would have scored regardless to even the scores at 15-all with the conversion to come, but alas for the Wallabies it was ruled out after Haylett-Petty changed his line and shoved his shoulder into Savea's, completely putting the All Black off his stride.

The crowd roared their approval at Veldsman and referee Nigel Owens, and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was out of his seat, because this was a crucial moment in what was an increasingly bizarre test.

Straight after, Dane Coles had claims for a penalty try after his kick through and dive on the ball was obstructed by Bernard Foley. This time, Veldsman ruled in favour of the visitors.

Beauden Barrett missed all three shots at goal before being replaced by Aaron Cruden after 45 minutes. Barrett's counterpart Foley missed two from in front.

The inaccuracy was systematic of a test which lost its shape after the All Blacks scored two early tries through Israel Dagg and Anton Lienert-Brown.

The All Blacks, so dominant through the Rugby Championship, couldn't get their hands on the ball. They missed tackles, passes went forward or to ground. It was a scratchy old performance but credit has to go to the Wallabies, and Cheika.

Cheika's side had a better balance to it, and it proved Steve Hansen's theory that there might not be such a gap between these two teams after all. Two poor defensive reads let in Dagg and Lienert-Brown at the start. Reece Hodge's charged down clearance allowed TJ Perenara to score. Haylett-Petty made a poor decision.

In between times there was little else to cheer about for the All Blacks supporters, apart from thunderous defence from Jerome Kaino and fellow loose forwards Matt Todd, who received warm applause when he was replaced, and Kieran Read.

It was Julian Savea who rescued it in the eyes of the home crowd. The big wing went over for his 44th try in 48 tests to give the All Blacks breathing space, and then left Speight plus Nick Frisby sprawling for his 45th.

Helping the All Blacks to their record-breaking 18th consecutive victory, he's going to new levels himself.

- NZ Herald

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