The Wallabies have beaten the All Blacks for just the second time in their last 19 match-ups. The 23-18 win in Brisbane was fully deserved for the home team who outscored the world champions three tries to two.
The All Blacks were already Bledisloe Cup champions for 2017 and they were unbeaten in retaining the Rugby Championship. This was very much a match after the fact for the men in black and they looked like a team asked to conjure up some form of motivational magic. On the night in Brisbane they lacked the X-factor to beat a disciplined and impressive Australia.
It would have been an injustice had New Zealand somehow managed to avoid defeat and it was an Australian victory that was given as much applause in New Zealand, as it was in Australia.
The New Zealand Herald’s Gregor Paul wrote: ‘The All Blacks will know they didn’t do enough with their attack game. They lost their shape too easily, didn’t have enough direct, bruising, straight running and some of their decision-making in the second half was poor.
‘Frustratingly poor but then that’s what you get with a young, inexperienced team. They made mistakes. Too many and at crucial times and when they review the game, they will see that there were too many aimless kicks. Not only that, but they often kicked at times straight after they had been without the ball for an age.
‘And then there was discipline. It was needlessly poor. Too many dumb penalties and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who had just made one of the best tackles of his career then gave away a stupid, stupid penalty that allowed Reece Hodge to boot the winning three points.
It was painful stuff for the All Blacks but maybe all part of what they will have to go through to grow as a team.’
Gregor applauded the quality of rugby on show and said it didn’t have the feel of a ‘dead rubber’ match. He also attributed the result more to the improvement among the Wallabies than an indifference of the All Blacks.
But that is debatable because no player can be expected to peak weak after weak and the All Blacks’s peaks were in Albany against the Springboks and in Buenos Aires in those first thirty minutes when they secured the Rugby Championship. The world’s number one team, very much like in Cape Town against the Springboks, seemed to be hanging on for the final whistle of what has been a hugely demanding season.
Renowned Kiwi rugby scribe Marc Hinton wrote it was the result needed to inject interest back into the Bledisloe Cup.
‘Every All Black defeat hurts if you’re a Kiwi. But this one probably less so. In fact, it’s no stretch to say that Saturday night’s memorable, skilful and committed 23-18 victory by the Wallabies over the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium has given the ailing Bledisloe Cup the kiss of life. No. Let’s go further. It has given the struggling Australian game the kiss of life. And if we who reside on the New Zealand side of the Tasman are brutally honest, we might even accept that this was a result that in the bigger scheme of things means a heck of a lot more than if it had fallen on the flip side of the equation.’
Australia 23 (R. Hodge, I. Folau, M. Koroibete tries; B. Foley con; R. Hodge 2 pens)
New Zealand 18 (W. Naholo, R. Ioane tries; L. Sopoaga con, 2 pens)