It was the hottest day in Brisbane for a long time as summer is just around the corner and there is no doubt that the high humidity played a big part in the weekends final scoreless Bledisloe Cup draw 18-18 between the Wallabies and All Blacks. Watching the match from the stands I was sweating so I could only imagine the extreme temperature at ground level in a match that never really reached any great heights with a large number of errors from both sides. Of course the pressure was on the Wallabies to lift their game against the RWC Champions, Bledisloe Cup holders and Rugby Championship victors and they can feel disappointed that they didn’t defeat the All Blacks.
The All Blacks needed a win against the Wallabies to equal the record of most Test successes which was accomplished by the Springboks coached by Nick Mallett in the late nineties but they fell short playing way below their normally high standards. The first half was error strewn with both sides having difficulty holding the football but a flawless kicking game by former Kiwi Mike Harris kept the Wallabies in front going into the break leading 12-6. Apart from All Blacks half back Aaron Smith fumbling the football near the Wallabies goal posts in the 9th minute, both teams never really looked like scoring in the first half.
The All Blacks were heavily penalised by South African Craig Joubert who again was over the top and played a big role in a dull first half giving a team warning to captain Ritchie McCaw in the 31st minute. His patience grew thin when he penalised veteran All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock for another cheap infringement at the breakdown and ten minutes in the sin-bin. Eight minutes into the second half Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale kicked a remarkable penalty from 50 metres our to stretch Australia’s lead out to 15-6 with the All Blacks struggling to get into the game. The next 18 minutes were adverse for the Wallabies as they showed ill-discipline and immaturity giving away four dumb penalties which were all converted by Daniel Carter to give the All Blacks the lead for the first time in the match 18-15. With both teams making mistakes Mike Harris managed to even the score for the Wallabies 18-18 in the 73rd minute with the game hanging in the balance.
The Wallabies had the best opportunity to seal the match at the 78th when their forwards went through 28 phases of pick and drive hoping to persuade Joubert to give them a penalty when they also had the option of a field goal, which they neglected. On the full time siren the All Blacks received a much relieved penalty but instead of looking for touch McCaw decided to mount a scrum on the All Blacks 22 metre line and two minutes later and sixty metres down field deep in Australian territory, Carter’s attempt to win the All Blacks the match was in vein when his field goal drifted left of the up-rights to end the Bledisloe Cup with an unsatisfying draw. Both teams will rue their error rate and missed opportunities but they looked tired and will use the next ten days to recover before they jump on a flight to Europe for their Spring tours. The Wallabies will be relieved that they showed some passion and belief after a tough season. Coach Robbie Deans inducted his 12th new Wallaby in 2012 when the Reds hooker James Hanson replaced Tatafu Polota-Nau with four other Wallabies playing their first game against the All Blacks.
It was the first time since 2004 that the All Blacks had been held scoreless and that was also against the Wallabies when they were beaten in Sydney 23-18. Coach Robbie Deans may have done just enough to retain his position but if he has a few hiccups when they face France, England, Italy and Wales in November it won’t take much for the calls for his replacement to build up again. There was one unsavoury incident in the match when Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham was placed on report for kneeing and head butting All Blacks captain Ritchie McCaw 25 minutes into the game. The All Blacks played poorly in extreme conditions and they will be disappointed with the efforts. Hooker Keven Mealamu played his 100 Test match for the All Blacks which is an amazing achievement and he was respected by a crowd of over 50,000 when he was replaced by Andrew Hore in the 56th minute.
The All Blacks can be proud of their achievements so far this year playing some great rugby but they will work hard to improve their game because substandard performances doesn’t sit well in their attempt for perfection so beware in Europe when they tour in November because they will be ruthless.