Bledisloe Cup 3
Australia vs New Zealand
Final Score – NZ 29/Aus 28
One thing this match was not was a dead rubber match. Despite the media circus surrounding the Wallaby camp, Australia came into this game guns blazing. For three quarters of the game they outplayed a competitive but slightly under par All Black side. Nevertheless as I have stressed in this blog for the last two months, modern day International Test Rugby is actually a game of 81 minutes. The team that can play to the hooter and then still have something in the tank for the last dying seconds of injury time will win matches at this level. As we have seen since last year, whatever their critics may say about their performance on any given day, the All Blacks have consistently proved that they are the master of this. If they are within a converted try of winning a match with 90 seconds to go before full time, then if you are putting money on it, you could confidently wager they’ll win the match.
Australia failed to recognise this and New Zealand reaped the rewards. At one point, with minutes left on the clock the ball went to ground in All Black possession and there was little support for the men in black. I was amazed to see Australia almost standing back and not contest a ball there for the taking. Their attitude seemed to say “the job’s done lads”. How wrong they were! New Zealand managed to hang on to the ball, Malakai Fekitoa graced us with another Jonah Lomu impression and the rest was history. The Wallabies learnt another painful lesson at the All Blacks finishing school.
Despite Australia for all intents and purposes throwing a game they should have won, Wallaby fans can take heart in a greatly improved Australian performance. Granted the All Blacks did not play with the intensity in this match that we have seen them capable of – but they provided that intensity when it was most needed. Nevertheless, for much of the game Australia were the dominant side. Their forward pack were impressive and the backs were allowed to shine. As argumentative and often disrespectful of the referee as he is at times, Michael Hooper’s work rate was once again phenomenal giving Richie McCaw more than a run for his money. On the wing, it was obvious to see why Adam Ashley-Cooper has played a 100 tests for his country and it was good to see his efforts rewarded with an impressive try. Israel Folau played a mostly solid defensive game and was fantastic to watch in full flight with ball in hand. Tevita Kuridrani was once again superlative on attack and proved to be a constant dilemma for New Zealand’s defences. I was also impressed with the foraging skills of Scott Fardy who I personally think is one of Australia’s most underrated players and I hope to see him getting consistent game time in November in preparation for next year’s World Cup.
In short we saw an Australia team chock full of talent but just lacking that final killer blow to finish off the big international teams. However, the overall level of skill displayed by Australia was heartening to watch. If they can find those finishing skills then this is a team more than capable of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy next year. So as the All Black juggernaut arrives in Europe next month, the Northern Hemisphere is painfully aware it will be a long month as Australia, South Africa and the dramatically improved Argentina also all come knocking on their doors determined to take no prisoners and answer the question of which Hemisphere has the most dominant brand of rugby.