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Bledislow Cup: Wallabies defeat All Blacks

Mighty Australia defeats titan New Zealand in Bledislow Cup

The Australia Wallabies beat the New Zealand All Blacks for the first time in two years to win the 2017 Bledisloe Cup. Inspired by Reece Hodge, the Aussies out-scored World Champions New Zealand 80-67 in the prestigious Bledisloe Cup series that turned out to be a tense match at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Against the odds, the underdog Australian national rugby team believed in themselves and came through to defeat the All Blacks when no one else believed they could in a performance built on the commitment, determination, spirit, and heart of the entire Aussie squad before a crowd of more than 40,000. Australia’s first win over their down under rivals in 2 years was an indicator of how far they has come since their record 54-34 loss to New Zealand in the opening Bledisloe Test back in August 2017. After trailing the All Blacks 40-6 at half-time in Sydney, the Wallabies have now out-scored the Kiwis 80 points to 67 in the last 200 minutes of the series. New Zealand dominated most of the first half, but led only 13-12 at half-time, due to playing conservatively in the wet conditions.

The Wallabies opened the scoring - striking first with a runaway try to winger Reece Hodge in the 6th minute. Hodge’s try was the result of defensive pressure applied by Australia to New Zealand and then taking advantage of the Kiwis’ weakness under pressure – not luck.The Wallabies put the All Blacks under enough pressure that they could score points as in the case of Hodge’s try. The successful try gave Australia the confidence they needed to inspoire fullback Israel Folau who scored in the 39th minute. In the second half, the All Blacks began fiercely in the first 15 minutes, but were unable to catch up with the Aussies. The Wallabies continued to put pressure on the All Blacks, finishing as strong, if not stronger, in the last 20 minutes. When playing their “A Game” it is the Kiwis who usually dominate the final period of the match. Marika Koroibete’s try in the left-hand corner in the 56th minute may have been the turning point for the Wallabies, a culmination of the pressure applied by the entire Australian side. The Wallabies’ pressure on New Zealand was felt most keenly in the advantage line. In theory, if you get across the advantage line 65% of the time, you will win most matches. Australia won the battle of the advantage line, keeping New Zealand to an uncharacteristically low percentage. Australia backrowers Jack Dempsey and Sean McMahon were outstanding in getting over the advantage line. McMahon had an amazing run in the 68th minute, breaking out of 3 tackles. The footwork of the Australian forwards and the pace and skill of the backs truly resulted in the All Blacks missing 28 tackles to just 11 by Australia.

After a second long-range penalty goal by Hodge, the Wallabies led 23-18 with just 3 minutes left in the clash. The Wallabies celebrated their stunning victory as if they had won the Rugby World Cup. The win was only their second win against the All Blacks in 19 Tests. The wonderful win for Australia came to a surprising climax with a win that is a positive signpost for the Wallabies - as positive as Auckland in 1978 a memorable Test win over the All Blacks that served as a giant springboards into golden periods for the Aussies. Although critics will say the win was a one-off win, hopes are live for fans for a world rugby title. The Wallabies toppled the All Blacks just 4 times in 33 Tests since 2007. Supporters have already rated Saturday’s win up with the best against New Zealand because the Wallabies All Blacks despite having the weather and odds against them. Way back in 1982 an understrength Australia side fought in a second-half gale in Wellington for an 19-16 upset for Aboriginal brothers Mark and tryscorer Gary. When Kurtley Beale was smashed in one turnover tackle by Sonny Bill Williams and copped some head-rubbing niggle from Aaron Smith it deepened the team’s identity and Australia coach Michael Cheika said “I hope it resonants and we as a union keep it going.” It was a big night personally for Cheika and Beale Cheika has continued to improve his side over the past two seasons when many of his 24 new Wallabies have been fast-tracked including Reece Hodge. “I wouldn’t say we’ve cracked the code,” Hodge said.

New Zealand’s coach Steve Hansen credited the Wallabies pressure and taking of chances for the win. “For a lot of guys, that’s probably the first loss they’ve had in the All Black jersey,” the coach said. “It’s a feeling you don’t just wash away.” The Wallabies gained confidence through the surprise victory - especially the 11 players who experienced their first ever win over the All Blacks. Regulars Adam Coleman, Sean McMahon and Hodge never had. Rookies Lukhan Tui, Marika Koroibete and Jack Dempsey are now one-from-one. Australian Rugby Union president Tony Shaw enjoyed watching a dominant Wallabies back row again. “We handled the pressure and put it back on them ... and they buckled,” Shaw said of Dempsey and McMahon. Fans can be sure that New Zealand will re-group before they meet Australia head-to-head again. The All Blacks were missing key rugby players Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith and Brodie Retallick who will make a difference when they return to duty.

On the upside, the Wallabies now know for sure they can beat the All Blacks, and New Zealand know they can lose to Australia. The All Blacks' lead on top of the World Rugby rankings took a hit following New Zealand’s defeat to the Wallabies. World champions New Zealand went into the third Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane with a lead of 5.38 ranking points over 2nd place England – a gap that was reduced to 3.69 points on Saturday following the 23-18 Bledisloe Cup defeat. Despite the loss, New Zealand still look likely to mark 8 years on top of the World Rugby rankings, sitting on 93.83 points. England remain in second spot on 90.14. England will have their first chance to close the gap when they face 10th ranked Argentina next month in the Autumn Internationals. Australia remain in third place in World Rugby despite their first win over the All Blacks since August 2015. The All Blacks moved to the number one spot back in November 16, 2009, taking the spot from the Springboks after South Africa beat New Zealand 3 straight times earlier that season.

Australia Rugby Team Fast Facts

Coach: Michael Cheika
Captain: Michael Hooper
Most caps: George Gregan (139)
Top try scorer: David Campese (64)
Top scorer: Michael Lynagh (911)
Best national result: Champions, 1991, 1999

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New Zealand Rugby Team Fast Facts

Captain: Kieran Read
Nickname(s): All Blacks
Top try scorer: Doug Howlett (49)
Top scorer: Dan Carter (1598)
Most caps: Richie McCaw (148)
Highest National Rank: 1 (2016)

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England Rugby Team Fast Facts

Top scorer: Jonny Wilkinson (1,179)
Emblem: Red rose
Appearances: 8 (First in 1987)
Highest: 1 (2004)
Top try scorer: Rory Underwood (49)
Captains: Chris Robshaw, George Ford 

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