6 Aug

Match Review – NZ v Australia
by Tracey Nelson
6 Aug 2000

I surprised myself after this game. While I’ll admit I had my head in my hands as John Eales lined up that kick (and I just knew it was going to go over!), ten minutes later I could sit calmly while others in the room were still bemoaning the loss and reflect that yet again we had seen a magnificent game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

Amazingly enough, this was another display of fast-paced, exciting rugby – wonderfully refereed by South African Jonathan Kaplan who played great advantage and allowed the game to flow. Top stuff! However, it is unfortunate that a small minority of the crowd found it necessary to vent their anger at our loss towards the referee by hurling missiles at him as he left the field. Sadly, such unsportsman-like behaviour from our crowds is on the increase and it detracted from what had been a glorious battle to death out on the park.

While this time Australia was the team to get off to a great start, scoring two tries in the first 15 minutes, the All Blacks quickly struck back with two tries to Christian Cullen; the second of which would rate amongst the finest of tries ever to be scored from a set move. It was superbly executed as the All Blacks swung the ball wide from a long throw to the back of the lineout, set up a midfield wall for a double switch-back using Lomu to feed Umaga who found the gap and put Cullen away to score untouched under the posts. Well set the world alight, why don’t you! was the apt call of delight from commentator Murray Mexted.

While this game didn’t quite manage to reach the giddy heights of the spectacle at Homebush, it was actually a better game and proved to be an edge of the seat affair as the score then see-sawed back and forth with a mere 1 to 2 point gap for the remainder of the match. Sadly, a foot injury to Andrew Mehrtens saw him leave the field in the second half, and one is left to wonder whether we might have seen the winning drop goal from him a couple of minutes from full time when the All Blacks had the feed to an attacking 5m scrum.

Instead, after a frenzied attack the ball was turned over and Australia kicked deep in to All Black territory. Our lineout nightmares resurfaced with two botched throws giving precious possession back to the Wallabies. Like the world champions they are, they forced the error from the All Blacks and captain John Eales took the pressure kick on full time to give them a one-point win.

The All Blacks probably didn’t deserve to lose this game, we outplayed Australia and there was great improvement to our ball retention and recycling – not to mention we definitely scored the best try of the day! I could lament that we didn’t manage to put together a better move to score from that scrum on their line in the dying moments, or that we are still struggling with our lineouts. But that would be to detract from a very good Australian side who showed why they are the world champions by withstanding the pressure and getting the ball back down the other end of the field to give themselves the opportunity to win the game. I certainly won’t be blaming the referee – he indicated that there were two minutes remaining and he played exactly that amount of time to the final whistle.

Congratulations Australia, you contributed to yet another marvellous game of rugby and this time you snuck out on top. And well done the All Blacks – the pain of such a loss will be intense, but you can hold your heads high because you outplayed this Australian team and put them under immense pressure to the end.

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