Wallabies shock All Blacks at the MCG


Two tries while New Zealand were down to 14 men gave Australia a shock 20-15 victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday – keeping their hopes alive of winning back the Bledisloe Cup and throwing the Tri-Nations race wide open.

As Australia raised their arms in triumphant jubilation they did so in the knowledge that not only have they ensured the Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup remain wide open but perhaps more telling in the knowledge the All Blacks are human after all.

It took a super human effort from the Wallabies, and as they departed the MCG man for man they bared more than a passing resemblance to the Incredible Hulk. The green of the advertising logos on the pitch had slowly covered their bodies and shirts throughout a compelling encounter.

Stirling Mortlock, the catalyst behind a stirring second half performance that led to the downfall of the All Blacks, rippled beneath a green glaze covering him. George Smith, who left the fray with minutes left, did so with his shirt splitting at the seams. This was a performance based on brute strength and bourne out of a steely determination to not go quietly into the cold Melbourne night as all but they had scripted.

This, only the All Blacks fourth defeat in as many years, is perhaps their most telling. The previous three, all at the hands of South Africa, ultimately counted for little. Yet this close to the World Cup there is renewed optimism for all, the All Blacks do indeed have chinks in their armour and Australia gave a master class in how best to expose them.

The reshuffle in the New Zealand back-line, a result of a late injury to Leon MacDonald, gave the Wallabies a target to attack with Luke McAlister forced to play out of position at outside centre. Mortlock was quick to pick up on this in the build up to the game, and it was he who did the damage with two searing outside breaks, the latter of the two leading to the winning score.

It is testament to the Australian mentality that they emerged from this encounter victorious, as for long periods the signs were ominous. Yet it was their tenacity and unwavering determination to make a statement to the world that allowed them to maintain more than a glimmer of hope. And when it mattered, with Carl Hayman in the sin-bin, they capitalised on All Black errors and punished them to the full.

Having left the All Blacks waiting after a ferocious rendition of the Kapa O Pango, a salute to the warriors in black, the Wallabies were made to pay. Julian Huxley hacked the kick off straight into touch and the next time an Australian would touch the ball would be a full five minutes later when Huxley again got the game going after Tony Woodcock had burrowed over for New Zealand.

The signs were not good for Australia, those opening five minutes were a cameo of what the All Blacks do so well. They attacked with pace and exposed every possible weakness in the Australian defensive line with Mils Muliaina slicing into the twenty-two to lay the platform for Woodcock’s try. The runners queued up out wide yet Woodcock, with the help of Dan Carter, bulldozed over from close range for his first Test try. Carter duly added the extras and the All Blacks were up and running.

It was down to Stephen Larkham to check the All Blacks, whose speed off the defensive line was phenomenal. Maybe Larkham slid in a clever kick to avoid a barrage of All Black tacklers, but more likely it was his astute knowledge and vision that prompted the kick. It came agonisingly close to yielding a try for the chasing Mortlock but Rokocoko piped him to the ball and defused the danger.

It was a timely reminder that Australia posed more than a passing threat, despite having been given little to no hope. After 14 minutes Mortlock slotted a penalty after missing a difficult attempt moments before. Carter then extended the lead with a penalty of his own a matter of seconds after

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