Saturday 19 August 2017 / 12:21 AM

Cliffhanger adds to Bledisloe legacy

The Wallabies’ heartbreaking loss to the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday night came courtesy of an extraordinary late comeback, but the visitors’ back-from-the-dead effort was nothing new in the modern narrative of the Bledisloe Cup’s intense rivalry – and it hasn’t always gone the overbearing Kiwis’ way.

1994: Gregan’s epic tackle – Australia 20 d. New Zealand 16, Sydney Football Stadium

 

The Wallabies got off to an absolute flyer, with Jason Little scoring inside the first 15 seconds. But the All Blacks came home with a wet sail, eroding a big deficit and carrying all the momentum into the dying stages…until young halfback George Gregan pulled off one of the most famous cover tackles of all time. Kiwi winger Jeff Wilson’s dazzling run to the corner appeared certain to result in a match-winning try, but Gregan’s amazing cover tackle jolted the ball free and saved the day for Australia.

1996: Bunce hits back for ABs – New Zealand 32 d. Australia 25, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

 

This match is equally oft-recalled for Wallabies forward Michael Brial’s frantic flurry of punches on Frank Bunce in the opening minutes, but it was the veteran All Blacks centre who had the final say. A brilliant opening half by Australia set up a sizeable lead, before New Zealand roared back and an Andrew Mehrtens penalty locked the scores up at 25-all in the latter stages. Bunce then finished off sensational work by Mehrtens and Christian Cullen to score the winning try in the last play of the game.

2000: ‘The greatest game ever played’ – New Zealand 39 d. Australia 35, Stadium Australia, Sydney

 

In front of a 100,000-plus crowd at the Olympic stadium, the trans-Tasman rivals staged a Test lauded by many as the greatest ever. The All Blacks scored three long-range tries in the opening five minutes and led 24-0, but the Wallabies incredibly fought back to lead by three at halftime. The lead changed hands another two times in an absorbing second half, before Taine Randell set up Jonah Lomu for the winning try in the 84th minute following an extraordinarily long passage of play.

 

2000: Eales boots Wallabies home – Australia 24 d. New Zealand 23, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

 

New Zealand led the Bledisloe Cup decider 20-18 at halftime, and clung to a 23-21 lead in the dying stages after a close-fought second half. Australia received a penalty out wide with time up to win the game – but their goalkicker, Stirling Mortlock, was off the field. Legendary skipper John Eales stepped up to the tee, however, and curled the ball between the posts after the siren.

 

2001: Kefu steals it for the Wallabies – Australia 29 d. New Zealand 26, Stadium Australia, Sydney

 

The Bledisloe already lost for the third season in a row, New Zealand looked set to exact some revenge when they led Australia 26-22 heading into the final minute in Sydney. But Wallabies No.8 Toutai Kefu took an inside ball from Stephen Larkham and beat several defenders before reaching out to score next to the posts, snatching victory for the hosts with a famous try.

 

2010: Kiwi comeback thwarts crumbling Aussies – New Zealand 23 d. Australia 22, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

 

Australia led the Tri Nations closer 22-9, holding New Zealand try-less for the first 66 minutes of the match. But composure and killer instinct saw the All Blacks prevail, with loose forward guns Richie McCaw and Kieran Read crossing for late tries and a one-point win.

 

2010: O’Connor magic in HK – Australia 26 d. New Zealand 24, Hong Kong Stadium

 

Australia headed into the historic Test with New Zealand in Hong Kong on the back of 10 straight trans-Tasman losses, but raced to a 12-0 advantage after 23 minutes thanks to the individual brilliance of Quade Cooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper. A familiar tale unfolded as the All Blacks charged back to lead 24-12 with a quarter of the match remaining, but a Drew Mitchell try cut the deficit to five points. When All Blacks flyhalf Stephen Donald infamously missed touch inside the final minute, the Wallabies held the ball for eight phases before James O’Connor crossed out wide to equalise. O’Connor then coolly slotted the conversion from touch to snatch a famous victory.

2014: Late fight-back breaks embattled Wallabies’ hearts – New Zealand 29 d. Australia 28, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

 

Ravaged by internal strife and poor recent results, the Wallabies produced their best performance of a tumultuous season against the mighty All Blacks in Brisbane. They were the better team for the vast majority of the match – crisp and forceful with the ball in hand, and tough and ultra-committed in defence. Australia led 15-12 at the break and held a 10-point advantage with less than 12 minutes on the clock after 100-Test hero Adam Ashley-Cooper scored. Aaron Smith responded for the All Blacks to peg the score back to 25-22, but a Nic White penalty extended the Wallabies’ buffer to six points with less than four minutes to go. Elusive Kiwi inside-centre Malakai Fekitoa capitalised on some intense late pressure, however, diving over with just four seconds on the timepiece, and Colin Slade’s ice-cool angled conversion burgled a one-point win.

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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