MELBOURNE - Bernard Foley denied Friday trying to deliberately waste time in the dying seconds of Australia's thrilling clash with New Zealand that saw French referee Mathieu Raynal make a controversial call that cost the Wallabies victory.
The home team were on the verge of a stunning come-from-behind win, leading 37-34 in the final minute in Melbourne on Thursday when Foley was penalised.
Raynal reversed a penalty awarded to the Australians in the remaining seconds for time-wasting as Foley -- in his first game for three years -- delayed his kick, believing the clock was off.
But it was a monumental error, with the All Blacks instead awarded a scrum five metres out, and Jordie Barrett crossed in the corner for a sensational 39-37 win.
"I wasn't trying to slow it down, but I was just trying to get really clear and concise about what we were trying to do at that next line-out," Foley told The Sydney Morning Herald.
"At the end it was very loud in the stadium, but there was no sense there was going to be a call like that."
Incredulous Australia coach Dave Rennie said he had never seen a call like it, although the All Blacks' Ian Foster insisted it was "clear cut".
Raynal's decision cost Australia any chance of claiming the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002 and put a huge dent in their Rugby Championship title hopes.
They trail the All Blacks by four points with one game to play in Auckland next week.
"I've never seen a call like that, at any level," fumed Rennie. "Let the teams decide the outcome, (it was) just a real lack of feel for the occasion.
"The disappointing thing from our point of view is it was a fantastic game of footy and we should be celebrating the game, as opposed to talking about a referee's decision in the last minute."
It culminated a heart-pumping match littered with yellow cards and injuries.
The sides went to the break all square at 10-10 at a sold-out Docklands Stadium before an explosive second half.
A New Zealand try 90 seconds after the restart -- and two more when scrum-half Jake Gordon was off the park after Australia's third yellow card -- appeared to end any hopes the home team had.
But the Wallabies never gave up and two tries from Andrew Kellaway inside five minutes and another from Pete Samu set up an exciting finale.
Nic White drilled a long-range penalty with three minutes left to put Australia in front, before the Foley controversy decided the match.
- 'Warned him'
While Rennie was exasperated, Foster insisted Foley had been given sufficient warning.
"They were delaying the kick," he told reporters. "He (Raynal) said 'time off'. He warned him then he said 'time off' and then he said to speed up, then he said 'time on'. Then he asked him twice to kick it.
"I understand there is a contentious nature about it but it was very clear cut from the opposition.
"Part of your game management is to listen to the referee," he added. "So when the referee says 'time on' you have to play it. I saw it out there. I heard very clearly what the ref said. So I think we've just got to be careful."
Foster, though, appeared to be in the minority with many in the media and online bewildered, including Australian World Cup winner Tim Horan, who was commentating.
"I've been commentating for over 20 years and I thought it was a disgraceful decision by the referee, he cracked under pressure," he said.
New Zealand's victory, on the back of their 53-3 hammering of Argentina, further eased pressure on Foster, and kept them top of the Rugby Championship on 14 points.
The Springboks and Argentina, both on nine points, face each other on Saturday.