The Wallabies have snapped a ten match losing streak to their arch-rival All Blacks by scoring two late tries to take a 26-24 win in Hong Kong last night. The loss also marked the end of a 15-test match winning streak by the All Blacks, coming up three matches short in their bid to set a new world record for most consecutive test match wins.
The All Blacks failed to secure the first kick off of the game, gifting the Australians possession. This proved to be costly as they were forced to defend for the next ten minutes. After two missed penalties by Kurtley Beale, the Wallabies turned down a shot with the third and were rewarded as Quade Cooper glided through a gap in the defence to take the score to 5-0.
The pressure continued and the Wallabies soon broke the line once again, this time Adam Ashley-Cooper, who fended off Ma'a Nonu to score under the post and take the score to 12-0.
As the first half wound down however, the All Blacks came storming back, linking some good phases together and were rewarded with tries to Jimmy Cowan and Cory Jane, while Daniel Carter converted both and added a penalty.
When Ma'a Nonu broke through the Wallaby defence early in the second half to dot down for the All Blacks third try, it seemed that dominance had clearly swung to the men from New Zealand as the Wallabies struggled to contain the rampant All Blacks backline, while also unable to gain dominance up front.
If there is one thing that we know about Australia though, it is that they fight like no other country no matter how long the odds appear to be. In contrast, it seemed as if the All Blacks thought they had the game won, as they rung in the substitutions for the final 20 minutes. This proved to be costly as it was clear that the new players weren't as capable of finishing off a team as what we have come to expect from the All Blacks this year.
It wasn't long until we saw this, as Isaia Toeava rushed up out of the line, giving the Australians the overlap and allowing Drew Mitchell to cash in with a try in the corner. This was converted to bring the score to 24-19.
The All Blacks had an opportunity to win the game just minutes from the end with a penalty most test match kickers would throw over. But Stephen Donald missed, meaning it was still game on.
And the Australians sure made the most of it, after a long build up phase, they were unable to score after knocking the ball on 15 metres from the try line with just 20 seconds to play.
It seemed all the All Blacks would have to do was find touch and they would have been able to hold the Australians out. But when Donald's clearing kick was a shocker and the Australians were given another chance to run it back.
They didn't need telling twice this time, as they were patient with the ball, making all the right decisions and finally crossed the line through James O'Connor. O'Connor converted his own try to give Australia an emphatic 26-24 win.
Both teams gave incomplete performances. For the Australians, their start and finish was outstanding. It was clear that they were up for it and the match was of utmost importance to them. However, they seemed to go to sleep through the middle and let the All Blacks back into the game.
The All Blacks simply didn't look up for it. They looked rusty, complacent and took an age to get going. The way they finished the first half and started the second showed that they still have the same abilities that they had three months ago in the Tri-Nations, but they were unable to finish off this time, something they have been so efficient at doing all year.
Stephen Donald has shown time and time again that he isn't capable of performing at the test match level, yet the selectors have continued to persist with him. This time this move was fatal, as he was simply awful.
His distribution was average at best, his in-field kicking was terrible and he missed a penalty that Carter, Slade and Delaney could have all kicked in their sleep. While some may say that this illustrates the All Blacks lack of depth at first five, the real problem is that the selectors aren't picking the best men for the job.
The loose forward trio of Kieran Read, Richie McCaw and Jerome Kaino once again were outstanding, with Kaino in particular standing out.
Jimmy Cowan was the only back to put together a complete performance. Conrad Smith was good, but looked rusty at times while his midfield partner, Ma'a Nonu, proved to be below his best on defence despite his rampaging form with ball in hand.
Australia looked dangerous every time they had the ball. The back three of Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Drew Mitchell all gave the All Black defence a few problems, while Adam Ashely-Cooper was dangerous at centre.
Quade Cooper started the game well, being the play maker we have come to know him to be, but his weak defence was soon exposed and will be an area that teams will be sure to target in the future should the Wallabies continue to use him in the 10 jersey.
The forwards struggled to gain dominance at times, but David Pocock was outstanding and was every bit as good as McCaw, effecting many turnovers with his ability to stay on his feet at the breakdown and was key to the Wallabies win.
Rocky Elsom led well from the front and was very strong on defence.
Does this game mark a swing of dominance in world rugby? I think not. Come next year, the All Blacks will have all been playing for months when the two sides meet next and will not have the same problems getting back into the game as they had last night.
They must persist with mostly the same team and look to bring back Israel Dagg and Piri Weepu once they are over they're injuries, while Colin Slade surely now has to be the second choice first five behind Daniel Carter.
In saying this, the Wallabies have now shown that they can beat the All Blacks and will challenge them right up until the final whistle at next years World Cup. The win installs in them the confidence to know that they can do it, which seems to have been lacking in recent times.
They are still faced with the dilemma at first five with Cooper being so brilliant, yet so inconsistent, but they seem to have solved their goal kicking problems with James O'Connor striking the ball perfectly.
The All Blacks now progress on the Europe where they will challenge the four home unions to try to secure yet another grand slam, while Australia will take on Wales, Italy and France in the coming weeks.
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