The Wallabies have settled for a draw in the Bledisloe Cup opener after narrowly missing out on their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
After almost an entire year since the last international rugby match, the young Aussies took it to the All Blacks in Wellington before securing a 16-all draw.
Wallabies star Reece Hodge had the chance to seal victory in driving rain with a monster penalty goal from beyond halfway.
But his attempt struck the outside of the upright and bounced back into play.
Turnovers from both sides kept the contest alive before James O’Connor, with the Wallabies under heavy pressure deep in their own half, chose to kick the ball out and take the draw.
“I’m very proud of our team to fight all the way through,” Hooper said.
“It was an enjoyable game, despite the conditions and despite the result, we are off to a good start with some things … there’s a lot of belief.
“It was close – a kick off the post – but we’ll go again next week.”
O’Connor had kicked a penalty in the 63rd minute to split a 13-13 deadlock and it looked like it could be enough for Australia under new coach Dave Rennie.
But veteran Australian lock Rob Simmons gave away a penalty with two minutes remaining, allowing All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett to level.
The Wallabies trailed 8-3 at halftime but their wingers Marika Koroibete and debutant Filipo Daugunu both scored to put the Australians on track for an unlikely victory.
Playing the first of four Bledisloe Cup Tests, the Australians looked a little shaky early on.
Australian touch judge Angus Gardner didn’t do the Wallabies any favours when he failed to raise his flag when Rieko Ioane put his foot on the line in the build-up to the All Blacks’ first try.
The home side worked the ball wide to make room for Barrett to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
The Wallabies kept busy, dominating possession and territory in the first half with halfback Nic White mixing up his game to keep the All Blacks on their toes.
But their line-out was again a weakness, turning over three throws.
It looked like they had conceded a try right on halftime when hooker Folau Faingaa spilt a ball which was picked up by Sam Cane, but Ioane blew a certain try when he lost control of the ball as he tried to put it down one-handed.
The Wallabies continued to build into the game, with their defence a highlight, giving All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga no room.
The superb showing means the Wallabies can dare to dream of winning back the Bledisloe Cup, heading next to Auckland’s Eden Park next Sunday on a high.