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Hodge, Aussies hand All Blacks shock loss

The Associated Press

Australia’s Reece Hodge, left, celebrates with Will Genia during a test match against New Zealand on Saturday.

ReutersSYDNEY (Reuters) — Australia gave itself a huge boost ahead of the World Cup when it stunned a New Zealand side reduced to 14 men for half the match 47-26 in a thrilling Rugby Championship test in Perth on Saturday.

Lock Scott Barrett’s dismissal for a dangerous tackle just before halftime undoubtedly had a big impact on the contest but the Wallabies were well worth their first win over the world champions since 2017.

Reece Hodge scored two of his side’s six tries as Australia ran up its highest points tally in 165 tests against the All Blacks, and gave itself a chance of regaining the Bledisloe Cup it last raised aloft in 2002.

Australia, which plays the second Bledisloe test in Auckland next week, could have won the Rugby Championship for the first time since 2015, but South Africa beat Argentina to clinch the championship.

That will matter little to Michael Cheika and his team, which has endured four largely miserable seasons since losing to the All Blacks in the last World Cup final.

“That’s a nice little hit of confidence and momentum there for us tonight,” said Australia captain Michael Hooper.

“We were controlling them quite well when they had 15 men so when they went down to 14 we didn’t need to change much.”

Lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, scrumhalf Nic White, winger Marika Koroibete and fullback Kurtley Beale also crossed for the Wallabies in front of a packed house of 61,241 at Perth Stadium.

The All Blacks had tries from backs Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett and Ngani Laumape, but they will not be happy with a defeat on the back of a draw against the Springboks.

“They were very good tonight,” said New Zealand skipper Kieran Read.“The first half was tit-for-tat and we just couldn’t get hold of the ball and then they just hit us after halftime and that just really gave them confidence.”

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