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Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Australia edge Boks in thriller
Stirling Mortlock celebrates his try with Chris Latham and Peremy Paul
Mortlock (centre) celebrates his first-half try
Australia 38-27 South Africa

Australia put their Tri-Nations campaign back on track with a tense victory in a pulsating encounter in Brisbane.

But the defending champions were stretched to the limit by a passionate Springboks side that matched them on the try count and threatened a shock win in the dying minutes.

South Africa overcame a 27-10 half-time deficit to draw within six points of their hosts at 33-27 after replacement Brent Russell's stunning score with seven minutes left.

But the Wallabies showed their trademark composure in the final moments to earn themselves a bonus point through a second try from full-back Chris Latham.

  Match facts:
Tries: Tune, Mortlock, Latham 2
Cons: Burke 3
Pens: Burke 3, Mortlock
Sin-binned: Paul, Harrison
South Africa:
Tries: Joubert 2, Skinstad, Russell
Cons: Pretorius 2
Pens: Pretorius
Sin-binned: Greef

Latham's first try after 25 minutes, following earlier scores from Ben Tune and Stirling Mortlock, had given Australia a commanding 21-3 lead.

Prolific goalkicker Matt Burke converted all three tries and added a couple of penalties before the interval to put the world champions in control.

But South Africa hit back to confound the pundits who had written them off as cannon fodder for the All Blacks and Wallabies.

After a major flare-up in the 34th minute that saw three players sin-binned, including two Australians, centre Marius Joubert sparked the Boks into life with a cracking solo try.

He scored his second five minutes after the resumption and when number eight Bob Skinstad marked a superb display with a third try after 55 minutes, a shock looked possible.

Ben Tune brushes off three tacklers to score Australia's opening try
Tune dives over to score Australia's opening try

But South Africa fly-half Andre Pretorius, who had previously kicked three out of three, missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty that would have brought the visitors to within three points.

Instead, Mortlock, assuming the goalkicking duties from the departed Burke, landed a rpenalty ten minutes from time to stetch the Wallabies lead to 33-22.

The electric pace of Russell, who had only been on the field a minute, ensured a grandstand finish when he finished off a length-of-the-field counter attack with a try in the right corner.

Again Pretorius was unable to convert, and despite enjoying a promising attacking position deep in Australian territory, the Springboks could not quite crown a spirited comeback.

The Wallabies won a turnover, opted for a scrum in front of the visitors' posts, and were rewarded when Latham's power took him over for the clinching score.

In front of a rapturous sell-out crowd at The Gabba, where Australia had previously never won a Test, the hosts had shown clinical finishing early on.

Tune, who will appear before an Australian Rugby Union tribunal after revelations that he unknowlingly took a banned drug last year, put a controversial week behind him with a world-class finish in the third minute.

It was a disappointment that we couldn't finish them off when we had that big lead
Chris Latham

The Wallabies pack, with flanker George Smith excelling at the breakdown, gave their backs plenty of ball before South Africa made a game of it.

After their opening defeat to New Zealand in Christchurch, Australia's win sets up a potential title-deciding return match with the All Blacks in Sydney next Saturday.

The Springboks, meanwhile, can take heart from a rousing display as they head home to lick their wounds before welcoming New Zealand to Durban in a fortnight.

Australia: Chris Latham, Ben Tune, Matthew Burke, Daniel Herbert, Stirling Mortlock, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan (capt), Toutai Kefu, George Smith, Owen Finegan, Justin Harrison, Nathan Sharpe, Patricio Noriega, Jeremy Paul, Bill Young.
Reserves: Brendan Cannon, Ben Darwin, Matt Cockbain, David Lyons, Chris Whitaker, Elton Flatley, Mat Rogers.

South Africa: Werner Greeff, Stefan Terblanche, Marius Joubert, De Wet Barry, Breyton Paulse, Andre Pretorius, Johannes Conradie, Bobby Skinstad, Joe van Niekerk, Corne Krige (capt), Victor Matfield, Jannes Labuschagne, Faan Rautenbach, James Dalton, Lawrence Sephaka.
Reserves: Delarey du Preez, Ollie le Roux, AJ Venter, Hendro Scholtz, Neil de Kock, Adrian Jacobs, Brent Russell.

Referee: Steve Lander (Eng)

Quentin Hull for BBC Sport
"It was an amazing Test match"

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