x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Wallabies edge Sprinboks in Tri Nations thriller

Kurtley Beale's last-gasp penalty earns Australia a 41-39 victory in Bloemfontein, ending a 47-year wait for a win on South African soil.

Kurtley Beale's long-range penalty with the last kick of the match helped Australia end a 47-year drought at South African altitude by snatching a dramatic 39- 41 victory in Bloemfontein. In a remarkable encounter, the world champions looked dead and buried shortly before half-time when they trailed 31-6. But a moment of inspiration from Victor Matfield, the vice-captain, reinvigorated the Springboks as he set up Jacque Fourie to score.

Further tries from Gurthro Steenkamp and Jean de Villiers, added to a haul of 24 points for Morne Steyn, looked to have set up Peter de Villiers's side for the win. But a 55-metre kick by Beale, the full-back, sealed a first win on the Highveld for the Wallabies since 1963 when they beat South Africa in Johannesburg. After the two sides played out a dramatic game seven days ago - when South Africa twice came back from a 14-point deficit to win 44-31- another epic encounter seemed unlikely at Vodacom Park.

Australia were gifted an early three points when Bryan Habana was punished for not releasing and Matt Giteau easily kicked the opening points. Steyn responded for the hosts after Beale's illegal attempt to steal the ball, but the NSW Waratahs back made amends almost instantly. Jean de Villiers failed to hold his position, which allowed James O'Connor to send him away for the opening try after eight minutes.

Giteau added the extras before another Springbok error, this time at the line-out, led to another seven pointer for Australia. John Smit's put-in was too long, enabling the Wallabies to steal the ball and spread it quickly through the hands to Adam Ashley-Cooper, whose pass sent O'Connor over. The conversion by Giteau followed, and after Steyn put over another penalty, Stephen Moore crossed for his third Test try, set up by Drew Mitchell's break through the middle.

Australia added a bonus point-try after 24 minutes, but again had Habana to thank after the winger missed his tackle on O'Connor, who sliced through the centre and off-loaded to Rocky Elsom to score. Giteau extended the lead to 31-6 and the score looked to be remaining that way heading into the half- time break, until the moment of genius from Matfield. The veteran lock, who won his 100th cap last week, chipped the ball over the last defender and impressively regathered before laying off the ball for Fourie to score.

Steyn converted to leave the Boks trailing by 18 at the break. Steenkamp cut that gap by five six minutes after the restart when he powered his way over and the conversion, along with a penalty, from Steyn further boosted the visibly rejuvenated South Africans. The Wallabies broke their jinx and ensured a Tri Nations finish ahead of South Africa. Australia also clinched the Nelson Mandela Shield. * Press Association