But when a high ball fell out of the Auckland night sky and hit Tom Banks square in the head, it summed up the Wallabies’ night.
Banks has been given ample opportunities at Test level and Dave Rennie knows Jordan Petaia is itching to play fullback. Petaia might have got his chance next week before Banks gave Rennie some food for thought by scoring two late tries in the 69th and 75th minute.
They were his first in a Wallabies jersey but left far too late.
The late fightback, albeit with the game out of reach, does bode well for a team whose confidence looked shot by the 60-minute mark.
Noah Lolesio had a difficult evening. Having successfully booted 18 of his 19 attempts against France, which was ultimately series-defining, he missed more kicks in the first half alone of Saturday’s match.
A swirling wind didn’t help Lolesio’s case. He left 12 points out on the field for a tally of two from seven (29 per cent success rate), which could have helped enormously as Australia trailed 16-8 at the break thanks to a Sevu Reece try on the half-time siren.
Aaron Smith’s 100th game went perfectly to plan as Damian McKenzie and Mo’unga scored 23 points between them in terrific cameos.
Kiwi referee Paul Williams pinned the All Blacks a couple of times early but the pressure-relieving penalties meant little when halfback Tate McDermott knocked on from a lineout receive.
It got worse. Australia’s lineout was diabolical, with five bumbled opportunities from set-piece in the opening 15 minutes.
Hunter Paisami kept a back-pedalling Wallabies outfit in the contest by twice ripping the ball from his opponents’ grasp before a scrum penalty helped Mo’unga register the first points of the evening.
Just when the Wallabies looked to be drifting out of touch, hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa executed a deliberate overthrown lineout that was swooped on by Paisami who gave it on to Andrew Kellaway for his first Test five-pointer.
Kellaway’s try, which prompted deathly silence in Auckland, should have sparked life into the Wallabies but they couldn’t kick on when it mattered, despite giving up few turnovers and being on the right side of the penalty count.
New Zealand looked to have scored a miraculous try from their own try line, as a result of some inaccurate reads in Australia’s defence, but it was disallowed.
When Mo’unga plucked the ball out of thin air and intercepted a Paisami pass to Petaia, his long-range try made it 23-8 and goodnight Wallabies.
If there is a silver lining, the Wallabies get to do it all over again, at the same haunted venue, at the same time next week.
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