28 Aug

The Lucky Country
by Rick Boyd
28 Aug 2000

Over here in Australia they refer to this big desert continent as the Lucky Country, and after the last couple of tests you can’t argue with that.

For the second time in the 2000 Tri-Nations Australia relied on a injury time penalty goal to win, this time with Mortlock kicking a dubious penalty to jag an undeserved 19-18 win.

The greatest team in Australian history with the big game-breaking backline we hear so much about could only manage one try and the rest came from Mortlock’s less than reliable boot. When the chips were down, however, the lucky country pulled out the sort of jammy good fortune which is the real hallmark of this otherwise not very remarkable team.

Their performance on the night ranks with some of the worst New Zealand games this year in terms of mistakes. Turnovers, knock ons, this game had them all. Sure, you can blame it on South African pressure but my idea of a knock on under pressure is when you get the ball half a second before a 95kg loose forward bowls you for the proverbial row of shitcans and you pop the ball forward. My idea of a knock on under pressure is not when you get clean ball from the base of steady ruck and bounce it off your fingertips while the nearest flanker has hardly crossed the advantage line. That’s just plain poor play, however much the flanker is scowling at you from a distance. Why the hell didn’t they do it against the All Blacks, that’s what I want to know?

The referee certainly didn’t aid the cause. Has Honniss taken up British citizenship? He was pedantic, erratic and in some cases just plain wrong. I would have given that try to Erasmus too. From the speed and angle he went over the line I can’t see how anyone could have stopped that ball from making contact with the ground. I have reservations about the held up rule anyway. If a bloke is good enough to get the ball over the line and crash to the ground with it, what should it matter if an opposition hand is preventing it making actual contact with the turf?

So while the Aussies are waxing lyrical about their prowess, as is their wont, and their over-stuffed trophy cabinet, we might pause to reflect that if master coach McQueen’s masterful strategy relies on the opposition granting injury time penalties, the Lucky Country might also be considered the Silly Country. We might also remember that the Bledisloe Cup is there only because Australia won it three years ago and in the two seasons since then have retained it purely due to drawn series. Some dominance.

Still, tradition is on the Australian side here. They have a long and proud history of jammy wins. The last Bledisloe Cup game foremost amongst them. Outplayed and out-thought it needed an undeserved Eales penalty in injury time to hang on to the silverware by the skin of their teeth.

Their effort in the 99 world cup against South Africa also deserves a mention. With the scores even at full time, a fortuitous drop goal from Larkham secured their passage to the final before a late penalty to Burke made it look even slightly respectable.

We could cite the ’98 12-11 win over England, the 16-15 and 19-17 wins over the All Blacks in ’92 or even the 13-12 win over the ’86 Baby Blacks, by why go on?

Yeah, sure I’m bitter. I have to live over here and listen to them babbling on and on about it. And I’m not saying that the All Blacks deserved to win the Tri-nations, they have only themselves to blame for going out with a whimper. I’m just getting heartily sick of hearing about how wonderful the Wallabies are when they were two penalty kicks away from finishing bottom of the Tri-nations tournament.

Golden Era my arse. Golden error more like.

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