The Top Ten: RUGBY.com.au's best Australian international moments of the decade

International
by RUGBY.com.au staff

With the decade just hours away from coming to an end, RUGBY.com.au has taken a look back at ten of the most memorable international moments involving Australia over the past 10 years.

From the Wallabies and Wallaroos to sevens rugby, Australian teams have been involved in some incredible moments over the past 10 years.

Here are our top 10.

10. Australia win the men’s and women’s Sydney 7s titles, 2018

There weren't too many trophies in the Australian cabinet in 2018 but the season began with a bang on home soil as the Aussie Sevens claimed an historic men's-women's double in Sydney. To say Australia's women dominated the competition would be an understatement as they swept through the competition without conceding a score - the first team to achieve such a feat in a World Series leg - on the way to claiming their first Sydney title.

For the men, the Sydney win was a drought-breaking victory and their first Cup triumph since 2012. Their title victory came in emphatic fashion as well with a 29-0 win over World Series heavyweights South Africa.

9. Wallabies v South Africa, 2011 Rugby World Cup

A James O'Connor penalty in the 72nd minute helped Australia hold on for a miraculous 11-9 win in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final that the Springboks dominated in every area - except the final scoreboard. The Wallabies refused to give South Africa any opportunity, making three times more tackles than their opponents, and having to spend virtually the whole match in defence as the Boks commanded 76 per cent of territory and 56 per cent of possession.

After taking an 8-0 lead, the Wallabies were gradually hauled in, South Africa taking a 9-8 lead in the 60th minute when Morne Steyn kicked a 40-metre field goal. Out on their feet and with errors plaguing their chances, Australia somehow kept repelling the Boks and when Danie Rossouw was penalised in the 72nd minute for pulling Radike Samo down in a lineout, O'Connor stepped up to nail a 40m penalty attempt, with the Wallabies hanging on in the dying minutes.

8. Wallaroos v Japan, Newcastle 2019

A first Test on home soil was a long time coming for the Wallaroos and they made the most of their opportunity this year, beating Japan in Newcastle to notch a 34-5 victory in Newcastle. In a historic season for the women, the two-Test series against Japan was followed by a clash against the Silver Ferns in Perth - as part of a double-header ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clash - before the teams played a second Laurie O'Reilly Cup clash in Auckland, the four Tests, the most Australia has played outside a World Cup year.

Grace Hamilton may have been playing her first game as captain in Newcastle but she showed all the poise and determination that had made her one of the world's best back-rowers in 11 previous Test appearances, leading by example, with 36 carries for 120m, as well as 22 tackles in an effort that earnt player of the match honours and showed why she was on the long list of nominees for World Rugby's women's player of the year.

7. Wallabies v Lions, Melbourne 2013

In just the second Test of his career, Christian Lealiifano nailed a conversion with three minutes left in the match to steal a 16-15 win for Australia and level the three-game series against the British and Irish Lions. Pushing from behind in the final minutes, the Wallabies' pressure finally paid off when, after 15 phases, five-eighth James O’Connor found Adam Ashley-Cooper, who touched down to put the Australians to within a point of the Lions with three minutes remaining. Lealiifano then stepped up and slotted the conversion to give his team the winning lead.

It looked like it would count for little when Lions super-boot Leigh Halfpenny had a penalty kick in extra time, but his attempt from halfway fell short. It was a stunning effort under pressure from Lealiifano, who only made his debut in the opening Test in Brisbane and was knocked out after just 45 seconds, failing to return to the field.

6. Wallabies v All Blacks, Hong Kong 2010

James O'Connor nervelessly converted his own try after the siren to end the All Blacks' record-breaking Bledisloe Cup winning run. The fulltime horn had long sounded but one of the greatest of trans-Tasman Tests just kept on going as Australia, down 24-12 with just 20 minutes remaining, attempted to batter their way to victory over a Kiwi side that had won its last 15 Tests straight. It eventually came down to O’Connor, then just 20, to step through three tiring tacklers to score the equalising try.

But the hardest part was still to come as O'Connor lined up the sideline conversion, with a Kiwi-dominated crowd jeering. The composed youngster coolly slotted the kick to hand the Aussies a 26-24 win - and while it did not alter the outcome of the Bledisloe series - the Wallabies' celebrations were sweet.

5. Wallabies v Wales 2015 Rugby World Cup

It's hardly the prettiest win in Wallaby history but Australia's 15-6 pool victory against Wales may just be their most courageous. In their final pool round clash against Wales, the Wallabies were leading 12-6 when they lost two men to the sin bin midway through the second half. With just 13 men for seven minutes, the Wallabies defended their line with desperation and held Wales out, going on to win the game 15-6, and pushing all the way to the final.

Wales stayed camped in the Australian quarter, throwing wave after wave of attack at the Wallabies’ line. Somehow, the Aussies held firm, holding Welsh raiders up twice - first George North in a remarkable tackle by Ben McCalman and then Liam Williams by Kane Douglas in the final play before they were back to 14 men - before icing the game with a late penalty to record a famous victory.

4. Wallabies v All Blacks, Perth 2019

Rated long-shots pre-game after years drubbings in Bledisloe openers, the Wallabies scored six tries-to-two to post a 47-26 win in Perth - their biggest ever score against the All Blacks - racking up the most points scored by any team against the Kiwis in their 116-year history. Australia led 16-12 at halftime but the All Blacks were forced to play the entire second half with only 14 men due to Scott Barrett being red-carded on the stroke of halftime for a shoulder charge into Michael Hooper’s head, receiving only the fourth red card ever issued to an All Black player.

The Wallabies still had a job ahead of them to exploit their advantage and they did so ruthlessly, with a high-tempo running game that ultimately stretched the All Blacks too far and too often. The Kiwis fought hard given their predicament, and they reduced their deficit to seven points with 20 minutes remaining. But the Wallabies, led by halfback Nic White, did not relent, and the home side then piled on three of their five second-half tries.

3. Wallabies v England 2015 Rugby World Cup

A virtuoso display from flyhalf Bernard Foley which netted an individual haul of 28 points, handed the Wallabies a 33-13 win over England to tip the hosts out of the World Cup in the pool stages. Having already lost to Wales, England was desperate to win but had few answers for a superb Wallabies outfit looking to ensure their own passage to the knockout stages. The result meant both Australia and Wales progressed to the quarters, leaving a gutted England the ignominy of becoming the first World Cup hosts to depart the tournament in the pool stages.

Two converted first-half tries and four penalties from Foley set up the win, and while England pushed their way back to within seven points at one stage, the Australians found more, with Matt Giteau scoring a late try to put the result beyond doubt and Foley adding the icing to the cake with the conversion.

2. Wallabies v All Blacks, Brisbane 2017

The Wallabies’ first Bledisloe Test win over the All Blacks in more than two years was made all the more memorable by the team becoming the first national side to don an Indigenous jersey. Reece Hodge took over kicking duties for a patchy Bernard Foley and gave Australia a five-point lead with his 77th minute penalty, with the Wallabies hanging on for a famous win.

But it was the team's jersey that captured as much attention as their play in it. Kurtley Beale, Durag man from Western Sydney and one of 14 indigenous players to represent the Wallabies to that point, revealed the jersey design in July, months ahead of the Test, having been an active advocate for the creation of an indigenous strip. The jumper commemorated the role of indigenous Australian in rugby's past, present and future and was a forerunner to jerseys donned against England at Twickenham in 2018 and at the World Cup against Uruguay earlier this year.

1. Women’s Sevens, Rio Olympics, 2016

Australia's women became the inaugural Olympic sevens champions after beating arch rivals New Zealand 24-17 in a thrilling final in Rio. Led by a superb performance from scrumhalf Charlotte Caslick, the Australians held off a late fightback from their trans-Tasman rivals to claim the victory and don Olympic gold in a performance that drove an explosion of popularity in the sport and women's rugby in general.

With sevens rugby introduced to the Games for the first time - XVs had been played on four occasions between 1900 and 2924 - the sport quickly captured the nation's attention and hundreds of thousands of fans gathered around TV sets early in the morning to watch the final being broadcast from Rio. The Aussies clinched a place in history less than four years after establishing a women's sevens program, with the victory capping a fairytale season for Australia, who clinched their first World Series title in the 2015/16 season.