Sensational Wallabies Shock All Blacks
A sensational first half performance by the Wallabies set the platform for a memorable 25-20 win over the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday which saw the Australians capture the Tri-Nations title for the first time in a decade.
A partisan Brisbane crowd in excess of 50 000 fans was treated to an epic encounter – a classic emotional roller-coaster ride filled with energy, excitement and top-class rugby.
The Wallabies were full of intensity from the opening minute and set the tone in a sublime first forty minutes, putting in a number of monster hits, bossing the breakdown with good cleanouts and counter-rucking and territory with a clever mix of running and tactical kicking.
The bruising first half claimed two key All Black casualties in Kieran Read and Adam Thomson, while Wallaby back rowers David Pocock and Radike Samo were catalysts in their team romping to a 20-3 half time lead.
A change in tactics led to an All Black resurgence in the third quarter, but the Wallabies, with new captain James Horwill part of a spirited pack, survived a tense finale to be crowned southern hemisphere champions and deliver a major psychological blow ahead of the World Cup.
In a role reversal from the All Blacks’ 30-14 victory in Auckland, Quade Cooper controlled the match while Dan Carter struggled under the severe pressure and made a uncharacteristically high amount of errors.
The Wallabies got off to a perfect start as Cooper slotted a penalty in the fourth minute and created the first try-scoring opportunity moments later when he made a half break and linked up with Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The Wallaby utility back crossed the try line but was unable to dot down with Piri Weepu and Mils Muliaina working in tandem to force a five-metre scrum.
From there, however, the hosts patiently continued to chip away at the All Black defence, stringing together a number of phases before a dart and show-and-go by Will Genia saw the Wallaby scrumhalf slice through Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks for a seven-pointer.
The All Blacks were desperate to strike back only to be met by some inspired defence. After a sustained period of pressure, the All Blacks created an overlap but they were unable to use their numerical advantage as lone Wallaby Anthony Faingaa rushed up and caught Muliaina in a ball-and-all tackle to save a certain try.
The out-of-sorts Carter finally opened the All Blacks’ account with a 24th minute penalty, yet the Wallabies remained in control. Cooper nullified his opposite number’s penalty with his second three-pointer of the match before the ever-present Samo sent the crowd into raptures when he fended off Thomson and ran all of 50 metres to score a sensational try.
The under-fire All Blacks were methodical and clinical straight after the interval as they clawed their way back masterfully, scoring 17 unanswered points as they switched tactics to a deliberate pick-and-go approach.
The resurgence was set in motion by a Carter penalty where after the New Zealanders strung together 26 phases to score their first try of the match, the extraordinary movement culminating with Carter pulling two defenders and offloading to an unmarked Conrad Smith for a seven-pointer.
Moments later, big Ma’a Nonu danced his way through four would-be defenders with Carter converting to level the scores at 20-all with 20 minutes remaining.
Genia rescued the Wallaby implosion by skinning Mealamu to break the line and finding Digby Ioane, who took it forward before linking up with Kurtley Beale, who scored the match-winning try against the run of play.
Cooper missed the conversion and a 72nd minute penalty to give the All Blacks a sniff, but the Wallabies were not to be denied as they held on to claim their third Tri-Nations title.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: The entire Wallaby pack was outstanding, with their physicality providing the platform for Will Genia and Quade Cooper to control the game.
Radike Samo was immense - he lit the fire early on with a couple of bone-crunching hits and strong runs before scoring that blinder of a try.
However, our pick is David Pocock, who did it all. He carried the ball effectively, defended bravely and starred at the breakdown.
His most telling steal came in the 75th minute when he halted the All Blacks’ momentum by winning a turnover penalty deep inside Wallaby territory, which allowed the hosts to close out the game.
Wallabies – Tries: Will Genia, Radike Samo, Kurtley Beale. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalties: Cooper (2).
All Blacks – Tries: Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu. Conversions: Dan Carter (2). Penalties: Carter (2).
Final Tri-Nations standings: