All Blacks vs Wallabies
Saturday, 26th July, 2003
7pm (Aust) kickoff
Aussie Stadium, Sydney
Ref: Tony Spreadberry, England
Halftime: NZ 23 - Australia 11
Fulltime: NZ 50- Australia 21
The big All Black ute has had its Jerry Collins bull-bars fitted and on Saturday night unlucky Wallabies were bouncing off them left right and centre. The sight of a rather ugly Melon of a Wallaby being firmly sat back on its tail was satisfying indeed!
I don’t know how many years of misery at the hands of Australian rugby teams I have had to suffer, but the merciless running over the Wallabies and then reversing back over again is all the sweeter for them. Much as with the South African game, the complete annihilation of their scrum in the closing stages was the icing on the cake for me.
Five or six seasons watching the same Bledisloe script unfold has left me a nervous and disbelieving spectator. Narrow wins, unstoppable Aussie comebacks and heartbreaking last minute losses do that to a fan. So even at 33-11 ahead, I was unconvinced the game was in the bag. A day later I still have to re-read the papers to confirm that 50-21 wasn’t a dream.
Not so long ago I was like many other armchair fans in Godzone - scratching my head in bewilderment at John Mitchell’s selection policies and double-dutch press conferences. We were doomed. Bloody DOOMED! So whack me with a dead fish and call me stupid because quite clearly he does have a plan, and what’s more, it appears to be a good one. The side he has settled on is well balanced, well drilled and have just thrashed both Tri-Nations foes in record fashion.
The pairing of Mauger and Spencer has been a key factor in the success of the new All Black backline. The ability of Mauger to take the ball to the defence, commit defenders and free the ball gives Spencer the time and space he needs to work his magic. I also like their interchanging of positions. It moves the lines of attack and forces the opposition to constantly adjust their defence to compensate.
With space and time, Spencer is able to unleash the best All Black backline we have seen for years. The result is pleasant for All Black fans one and all. Sorry Caleb Ralph… Sorry Ben Blair… Barring injury, the best you can hope for this year is free front row seats at the crunch World Cup games and a run against the easy beats.
It is surely no coincidence that the destruction of the Bok and Wallaby scrums both occurred after Brad Thorn and Mark Hammett entered the fray. Much as Kevin Mealamu is a crazed tank with the ball in hand and Ali Williams’ potential is undeniable, the scrummaging skill and sheer power that Thorn and Hammett bring should not be underestimated.
What lies ahead for the All Black fan now? Surely the shiny new All Black machine will be unstoppable in Dunedin and the road kill will be Springbok. With the Tri-Nations retained, the last hurdle before the World Cup comes in the form of the Wallabies at Eden Park. Not counting his eggs before they are hatched, this fan is now looking forward to both games with guarded optimism and heaven forbid, a little confidence!