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Australia vs. South Africa: Score, Report from 2015 Rugby Championship Clash

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2015

Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Wallabies runs past South African player Marcell Coetzee, left, to score a try during their Rugby Championship match in Brisbane, Australia, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/David Kapernick)
David Kapernick/Associated Press

A new-look Australia kicked off their 2015 Rugby Championship campaign with a 24-20 victory over South Africa on Sunday, with Tevita Kuridrani scoring in the 81st minute to clinch a massive result for Michael Cheika's men.

Tries from Eben Etzebeth and Jesse Kriel either side of the half-time whistle put the Springboks ahead, but Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper went over to give the hosts hope before Kuridrani sealed the result. Ultimate Rugby confirmed the last-minute win:

Ultimate Rugby @ultimaterugby

Australia beat South Africa 24-20. Check out the game winning moment here #AUSvRSA http://t.co/k0hCzdVqgX http://t.co/GEBBAeiVvR

Two teams welcoming many new faces into their ranks were always going to make for a tetchy encounter, which is precisely how things initially unfolded as the two sides sought to get their noses in front early on.

Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard was brought into the action early on and struck the Australian posts with his first attempt from the tee, letting his foes off the hook after five minutes.

However, South Africa suffered a major blow of their own as veterans Victor Matfield and Jannie Du Plessis were forced off with injuries, per Rugby World's Owain Jones:

Owain Jones @OwainJTJones

Springboks won't be happy to see Jannie du Plessis and Victor Matfield leaving the field in the first 20. 185 caps worth of experience gone.

The Springboks looked the better side at the set piece and earned several more penalty opportunities in the opening phases, with Pollard improving to see his side ahead 6-0 after 25 minutes of play.

Jones noted that Cheika's side were lacking a calm demeanour when making their surges deeper into the opposition's territory:

Owain Jones @OwainJTJones

Wallabies are having brain fades every time they get to the Springbok 22. Must be very frustrating for Cheika and co.

That changed in the 32nd minute, though, when a sliced Willie Le Roux clearance gave the hosts a lineout deep in the South African half, and Australia were only too happy to punish the full-back's error. 

The ball was swung wide from the lineout as Matt Giteau and Quade Cooper went fluidly through the hands before feeding Ashley-Cooper, who soared over next to the posts for his 31st Test try.

Tevita Kuridrani deserved his praises for an understated dummy run in the buildup, with Cooper delivering a wonderfully disguised inside ball to the onrushing Ashley-Cooper.

The first try of the game also gave the Wallabies their first lead, but the breakdown was still proving to be a problematic area, per Charlie Morgan of Rugby World:

Charlie Morgan @CharlieFelix

Bismarck smashing Australia at the breakdown. Chris Robshaw completely derailed them in November too. David Pocock essential for the RWC.

It was through the airwaves that the Wallabies fell short when conceding a try to Eben Etzebeth just minutes later, though, when the lock found himself on the end of a sumptuously worked piece of Springboks skill.

Eat Sleep Rugby posted footage of the move in all its glory, with Pollard teeing up Bryan Habana, who tipped the ball down to Le Roux in Globetrotter-esque fashion, feeding Etzebeth for the score:

The 37th-minute try was a disappointing way for Australia to end the half just as they looked to have found some synchronisation among their ranks, with some back-line phases looking particularly promising.

ESPN Scrum's Brett McKay adjudged it to be a fair scoreline at the break, however, with South Africa just that bit more cohesive:

Brett McKay @BMcSport

At HT, 13-7 feels like a fair reflection of the game. Boks playing like they've been together 120 mins, Wallabies like they met this week..

Meyer will have been overjoyed to take a lead in at the break, but this emerging South Africa team would be hard-pressed to retain that cushion in Brisbane as the second half got underway.

But the coach's fears were allayed when debutant Kriel jived his way to a darting score from out on the left flank, cutting in tremendously after 44 minutes, leaving writer Brendan Gallagher impressed:

Brendan gallagher @gallagherbren

The word on the street from South Africa is that Jesse Kriel is going to be a legend. That was certainly a pretty decent first Test try

Bulls prodigy Kriel had been kept fairly quite up until that point, but the 21-year-old dummied and feinted his way to the whitewash in a manner so confident, one would have thought he'd been playing Test rugby all his days.

Gallagher wasn't the only one heaping his praise on the midfielder, either, as Rugby World's Paul Williams and Ben Coles of Planet Rugby chipped in:

Paul Williams @thepaulwilliams

Beautiful try from Kriel. Big fan of his. Proper 13

Ben Coles @bencoles_

Springboks may have just found their outside centre. Super from Kriel.

For their part, the Wallabies forwards looked like an improved unit moving forward and there were plenty of positives to see emerging—all except the end product.

It was clear Cooper and Giteau were going through some growing pains at the beginning of their relationship, with the former's drifting sometimes restricting his centre's openings out wide.

David Kapernick/Associated Press

Cooper kicked a penalty to bring his side within 10 points, but it wasn't long after a badly hooked attempt that Matt Toomua came on as his replacement with little under 10 minutes remaining.

Wallabies captain Hooper had been relentless in his efforts all day and earned just reward after 73 minutes, with broadcaster Sonja McLaughlan lauding the flanker's non-stop engine:

Sonja McLaughlan @Sonjamclaughlan

Michael Hooper a rugby terrier. Tenacious doesn't come close to covering it

It was Hooper who drove opposite number Schalk Burger back over his try line to earn a valuable five-metre scrum, capitalising not long after thanks in large part to his own determined graft.

Tensions reached fever pitch in injury time as the Springboks defence were scrambling to hold back a tide of Australian pressure and Kuridrani's attempt to dive over went to the TMO for a decision.

Francois Louw and Burger combined in a sterling effort to prevent the Wallabies star, but the officials found Kuridrani's effort to be good, sealing a dramatic comeback win for the Brisbane hosts.

Australia's official Twitter account was unsurprisingly overjoyed with the last-gasp result:

Qantas Wallabies @qantaswallabies

FT | WE'VE DONE IT! Tevita Kuridrani has scored the match winning try, and the #Wallabies have stolen victory! #AUSvRSA

Cheika's side travel to Mendoza next Saturday to take on Argentina, where they'll be seeking revenge for last year's defeat to the Pumas in the hopes of maintaining their 100 percent start.

Meanwhile, it's a gloomy start to the competition for the Springboks, losing a game that was there for the taking and surely dooming their chances of claiming the Rugby Championship crown.

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