The fiercest of rivals
July 16, 2009
John Eales and Richie McCaw have both enjoyed victories over their Tasman rival in the Bledisloe Cup © Getty Images
The Tri-Nations bursts in to action at Eden Park on Saturday, when Graham Henry's All Blacks and Robbie Deans' Wallabies rekindle one of the oldest and most fiercely contested rivalries in the history of the game.
The Bledisloe Cup was donated by Lord Bledisloe, Governor of New Zealand, in 1931 and was to be contested annually by the two countries.
New Zealand hold overall advantage in terms of series wins, but one thing that neither set of supporters will deny is the drama that has accompanied the fixtures, and in our latest Scrum Seven we take a look at some of the most exciting and significant Bledisloe Cup showdowns.
Australia 35-39 New Zealand - Stadium Australia, Sydney 2000
John Eales' Wallabies rolled in to Stadium Australia in 2000 halfway through their most dominant period in the history of the Cup. In 1998, the year before they triumphed at the Rugby World Cup in Cardiff, the Wallabies wrested the Cup from the All Blacks and had few plans to hand it back.
This first game of the 2000 Bledisloe Cup series was watched by a world record crowd of 109, 874, who were treated to a game of rare drama - and one that was decided by a player born to shine on the big stage in All Blacks wing Jonah Lomu.
In a first-half containing enough incident to fill two normal games, the All Blacks raced in to a 24-0 lead thanks to tries from Tana Umaga, Pita Alatini and Christian Cullen. Down and out, the Wallabies were sparked in to life by a sniping Stephen Larkham break that lead to a try for wing Stirling Mortlock. Mortlock followed up this score with another before Chris Latham and Joe Roff both struck before the half-time whistle for a lead of 27-24 at the break.
The second half brought tries for All Black scrum-half Justin Marshall and hooker Jeremy Paul - the Wallabies leading 35-34 with the clock showing 83 minutes. The ball found its way to Lomu as the Wallabies flew up in defence, the great man pinning his ears back and making it to the corner to win the game.
New Zealand 23-24 Australia - Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 2000
Just under a month after their record breaking day out in Sydney, the All Blacks hosted Eales' men at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Eales, nicknamed 'Nobody' because 'Nobody's perfect', secured a famous victory for his side with a last-gasp penalty. The sight of a 6'7'' lock lining up a kick is not likely to be repeated any time soon, and if you were to ask Bakkies Botha to have a go the result probably wouldn't resemble Eales' sweetly struck effort that ensured the retention of the 2000 Bledisloe Cup.
The Wallabies had trailed to a brace of tries from Christian Cullen and 13 points from Andrew Mehrtens, Eales being swamped by team-mates after his kick complemented tries from Mortlock and Roff to the tune of a 24-23 win.
Australia 21-50 New Zealand Stadium Australia, Sydney, 2003
Current Australia coach Robbie Deans will be hoping to prise the Cup away from New Zealand this weekend - six years after he helped to end the Wallabies' domination of the competition while assistant coach to the All Blacks.
The All Blacks had not had their hands on the Cup since 1998, but they set out their stall with a crushing 50-21 win over the Wallabies in the opening game of the series in 2003. Winger Joe Rokocoko was the Australians' main tormentor, bagging a hat-trick of tries in only his fifth Test.
Doug Howlett, Aaron Mauger, Tana Umaga and a young Dan Carter also breached the Australian line in Sydney, and when the Wallabies slipped to a narrow 21-17 loss in the second Test at Auckland the Cup was lost.
The 1992 Bledisloe Cup series - 2-1 Australia
It was hard to separate the sides, so we've decided to include the entire 1992 series on this list. After three classic Test matches only six points proved to be the difference between the teams, the Wallabies winning the Bledisloe Cup after a 2-1 series victory.
The first Test at Sydney finished 16-15 to the hosts, with tries from David Campese and Tim Horan matching Kiwi efforts from Frank Bunce and Inga Tuigamala. Two penalties from Michael Lynagh sealed the single-point win, Grant Fox landing a penalty and conversion for the visitors.
The second Test, also suffocatingly close, finished 19-17 to Australia with winger Paul Carozza bagging the headlines. As he celebrated his first try, Carozza was smashed on the floor by All Blacks prop Richard Loe. There was no disciplinary comeback on Loe, so with a rearranged nose Carozza secured his own retribution in scoring the Wallabies' second try to secure the Cup.
The All Blacks gained a measure of revenge in winning the third Test 26-23, with the boot of Fox securing the consolation win thanks to three penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal to go with tries from Walter Little and Jamie Jospeh.
New Zealand 16-30 Australia, Eden Park, 1978
As the Wallabies rolled in to Auckland's Eden Park in 1978, they had nothing to play for but pride. The All Blacks had retained the Cup with a close 13-12 win in the first Test and a big 22-6 effort in the second, but Australian No.8 Greg Cornelson had different plans for the dead third Test.
Cornelsen breached the All Black defence on four occasions, his back-row partner Gary Pearse scoring a fifth try in a rousing 30-16 win that left an indelible mark on one John Eales.
"The first game of rugby I ever remember the Wallabies playing was 1978 and I will never forget it because I was at home, I watched in on the ABC and the Wallabies won," Eales recalled in an IRB interview. "It was the day the Wallabies scored five tries against the All Blacks and Greg Cornelsen scored four of those five tries.
"I walked outside and met my neighbour, he said 'did you watch the Test against the All Blacks?' I said 'yeah, we flogged them easy, it was just New Zealand' and he pulled me aside and said 'you don't realise what you've just seen, because what you have just seen has never happened before in the history of Australia-New Zealand Test matches. When it comes to rugby there is no team better than the All Blacks, what you have seen is something very, very rare'.
Australia 12-6 New Zealand, Sydney Cricket Ground, 1979
The year after Cornelson's heroics, the Wallabies had more to cheer as they finally ended the All Blacks' 30-year vice grip on the Cup with victory in a one-off Test match at Sydney Cricket Ground.
In stark contrast to the fireworks and end-to-end games that have come to characterise the series, the heroes in Sydney were Wallaby fullback Paul McLean, who scored three penalties, and fly-half Tony Melrose who landed a drop-goal. The Cup went back to Australia thanks to this 12-6 win - four swings of the boot ending three decades of frustration.
New Zealand 19-14 Australia, Hong Kong, November 1, 2008
In 2008 the Bledisloe Cup went global. While fans and commentators debated the move long in to the night, administrators played up the financial importance of the one-off fourth Test match, played in front of a sell-out crowd at Hong Kong Stadium.
The All Blacks triumphed 19-14 thanks to tries from Sitiveni Sivivatu and Richie McCaw and claimed the series 3-1, and the success of the overseas venture was significant enough to ensure that the Cup would head out on the road again in 2009 - touching down this time in Tokyo. It's the Bledisloe Cup, but not as we know it.
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