Bledisloe Cup: An anthem-killer ushered in the Wallabies' last win in NZ

Tue, 10/08/2021, 08:20 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Wallabies come up short despite strong second half at Eden Park

It’s exactly 20 years since the worst rendition of the Australian anthem in Bledisloe Cup history ushered in one of the finest of Wallabies’ victories in New Zealand.

We shouldn’t really be celebrating the last win by the Wallabies over the All Blacks on Kiwi soil because August 11, 2001 only highlights just how long ago it was.

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Heck, Carisbrook doesn’t even exist anymore.

Back then, no one had invented the iPhone, leg-spinner Shane Warne (6/33) had just ripped through a hapless England at Trent Bridge and Australia was just about to go wild over animated TV character Bob the Builder’s hit song Can We Fix It?  

Can we fix the Wallabies’ record over the All Blacks in NZ? That’s more the question because zero-from-26 since is damning. 

The 2001 win in Dunedin is well worth celebrating because the balance and composure of that afternoon has lessons for Michael Hooper’s modern men as they head to Eden Park on Saturday.

When can you last remember a Wallabies’ side outkicking the All Blacks comprehensively?

They did in Dunedin.

The Matt Burke try midway through the first half was brilliant in execution from start to finish as it ignited the 23-15 win.

Check it out on YouTube. A hirsute Nathan Grey, with a stepping, powerful run from inside centre, and backrower Owen Finegan charged ahead to set the platform.

Quick ruck ball was relayed to Andrew Walker, sliding into first receiver from the wing, and onto to flyhalf Steve Larkham.

Larkham put Burke into a hole, the Wallabies’ World Cup-winning fullback kicked ahead and won the race for the ball. Try.

The Wallabies kicked intelligently when on the front foot on a drizzly day and with the ball-chaser having the advantage.

Noah Lolesio pin point grubber for Tom Banks

Rewind to last weekend in Auckland. That poor Andrew Kellaway kick ahead was an awful waste. No one was in a great position to regather a kick that should have been ball passed along the line anyway. Decision-making.

It seems astonishing that the 2001 Test at Carisbrook is still the last time the Wallabies won on Kiwi soil.

How? Beating the All Blacks in key parts of the game is the only way to undermine them.

That’s winning every lineout and pinching some Kiwi ball, not five fizzers to open a Test like last weekend.

It’s big defence like Hunter Paisami did produce in last weekend’s first half when he jolted turnovers with thumping hits on David Havili and Richie Mo’unga.

It’s bottling up dangermen. The great Jonah Lomu was largely kept out of the game in 2001. How about a stifle plan for Mo’unga or Damian McKenzie?

Captain John Eales and his 2001 Wallabies certainly weren’t ignited for action by the singer of the national anthem pre-Test.

Kellaway bags his first Test try for the Wallabies

A 21-year-old Kiwi baritone was called in late to perform it.

Disaster. He appeared to forget the anthem’s words, hesitated at first and then stopped. It was a performance girt by embarrassment.

A technical fault that cut the sound was later blamed so the Australian players and the Aussies in the crowd got on with singing it themselves.

There’s another lesson for Saturday. Take the initiative Wallabies. Dust off another of those set-play moves like the beauty that Kellaway scored from a long lineout throw. 

Most of all I remember 2001 because of a story told to me in Dunedin by the late Roy Prosser, a wonderful man who played 25 Tests when the Wallabies struggled for any type of Test win.  

In 2001, Prosser had the honour of handing out the jerseys to the team before the Test in Dunedin where the Wallabies had never won in 96 years of trying.

He had prepared notes for his address yet tossed them when, outside the team hotel, he bumped into All Blacks legend and friend Colin Meads.

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When Prosser was part of the 1972 Wallabies, whacked 3-0 in New Zealand, the Kiwis treated their trans-Tasman rivals like a snotty-nosed kid brother.

“All of a sudden, perhaps the greatest ever All Black came over with a huge respect because of the Wallabies I was about to address,” Prosser said.

“The Wallabies of that time had earned that for their achievements in World Cups and Bledisloe Tests ... and for all Wallabies.”

That essence of respect was hard-won by the Wallabies and was delivered in quiet, earthy tones by Prosser when he spoke to Eales and his men.

It’s hard to stomach that some of that respect has been worn away by conceding 40 points eight times against the All Blacks over the past eight years.

The hang-in-at-all-costs quality to the Wallabies finding a few late tries in Auckland last weekend should not be underestimated. Spirit like that is the start.

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