Held to a draw … Ben Tapuai is tackled. Photo: Getty Images
FOR the All Blacks, a sense of deja vu is no longer solely applicable to the French at World Cups - the supposedly woeful Wallabies ended their tilt at a world-record winning sequence a second time with a deserved stalemate in Brisbane.
Their 18-18 draw was against the odds and had no bearing on the All Blacks' continued ownership of the Bledisloe Cup but it did deny them 17 straight Test triumphs.
Queensland again proved an unhappy hunting ground for the All Blacks, 14 months after the Wallabies secured the last Tri-Nations title with New Zealand's most recent defeat.
Wallabies hold the All Blacks in 18-18 draw
Burst of speed ... Pat McCabe eludes the New Zealand defence. Photo: Getty Images
It was a morale-boosting victory for Australian coach Robbie Deans, who also controlled the team responsible for ending the All Blacks' 15-Test unbeaten run in Hong Kong in 2010.
Deans avoided the 14th loss against his homeland in 18 attempts thanks to the flawless goal kicking of North Harbour representative Mike Harris.
Harris squared an error-strewn though tryless encounter at Suncorp Stadium with seven minutes of regulation time to play, although the Wallabies had to wait until long after the siren to gain some solace from a disappointing season.
In a fraught conclusion, the Wallabies held possession and field position but refused to set for a dropped goal; then from a penalty turnover the All Blacks launched one desperate raid into Australian territory but Daniel Carter was unable to repeat his match-saving field goal exploits in the second Irish Test at Christchurch in June. His stood disconsolate after his pot from 25 metres in front of the posts drifted wide.
After two sublime performances in La Plata and Soweto, the All Blacks regressed to the uninspiring form they produced at the start of the Rugby Championship - and opening trans-Tasman encounters as Harris, one of seven Wallabies making a Bledisloe Cup debut, punished their inaccuracy and illegalities in multiples of three.
Aaron Smith set the tone for the a tardy opening 40 minutes by the overwhelming favourites in the opening seconds when his clearance of Kurtley Beale's deep kick-off was charged down.
The All Blacks' problems were not all self-inflicted as the Wallabies exerted tremendous pressure at the breakdown, an area where South African referee Craig Joubert frequently found fault with McCaw and his men.
It was a frustrating night for the skipper, who endured three defeats at the ground last year with the Crusaders and All Blacks. He was also treated with familiar contempt - last night blindside Scott Higginbotham produced an undetected head butt in the 25th minute. To add insult to injury, McCaw was penalised at a ruck five minutes later, prompting Joubert to issue a warning.
The Wallabies were depleted in the 55th minute when McCaw's counterpart, Michael Hooper, was sin-binned for a late hit on Smith. Carter converted the resulting penalty to trim the Wallabies' margin to three and was also on target as the All Blacks led for the first time with 10 minutes to elapse. The All Blacks' famed composure was barely evident all night.