Australia’s seven-year seven-game winning streak against New Zealand is over with the Jillaroos falling 12-6 in their Pacific Championships clash in Melbourne.
Rookie Kiwi winger Leianne Tufuga scored her first international try with seven minutes left on the AAMI Park clock on Saturday night to break a 6-6 deadlock and secure the victory. Australia hadn’t lost to their trans-Tasman rivals since 2016 and were unbeaten in their last 15 matches against all-comers.
Australia enjoy Pacific Test wins as Kangaroos blow away Samoa and Jillaroos edge NZRead more
But New Zealand fancied their chances after only losing 16-10 in Townsville in their first Pacific Championships match. And with no women’s final or a third Test between the teams and with a win apiece, the teams had finished level on points differential.
It looked like New Zealand could be scrambling for a match-winner after their first-half tryscorer, Mele Hufanga, was forced off late in the match for a HIA. Ultimately, Tufuga’s try was set up by Apii Nicholls, with the Ferns’ superstar fullback firing a long ball out for her winger, who still had work to do to plant the ball across the line.
The four-pointer was crucially converted by veteran halfback Raecene McGregor, who was in raptures after the win.
Uncharacteristically poor in attack, only completing at 53 per cent for the match, Australia couldn’t find a late try to level.
The home side took an early lead through their own winger Jaime Chapman, who charged over in the ninth minute with the Kiwi defence caught short.
It appeared that Dally M Medallist Tamika Upton had scored Australia’s second before the bunker ruled the fullback had lost the ball. Nicholls was also denied a try in the second half due to obstruction.
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With both sides desperate to score, Tiana Davison stripped the ball from Australian captain Ali Brigginshaw early in the tackle count. The Kiwis opted to run the ball on the last tackle and Brisbane centre Hufanga, who has represented Tonga in rugby union, was unstoppable with the scores locked up at 6-6 at halftime.
The Jillaroos also finished with three players – Jess Sergis, Kezie Apps and Olivia Kernick – on report.