The annual season for delusion of ‘this year being the year’ is upon us once more, with the Bledisloe Cup up for grabs once again. On Saturday night the Wallabies commence their quest to regain The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup when they square off against the All Blacks in Sydney. The Pinch Hitters have a proud history of being caught up in this delusion and are once again confident that the long wait to get our hands on Trans-Tasman Rugby’s greatest prize is almost at an end. Rather than tell you the reasons for why we hold this view, we’ve decided to do something much more fun and go through Australia’s Top Five Bledisloe Cup moments of the last 30 years.
The list is heavily populated by the Golden era of Australian Rugby between 1991 and 2002 and unapologetically so, given that this period saw seven of the Wallabies 12 Bledisloe Cup Series wins. With just one golden moment since then perfectly illustrating the barren times which have seen the Wallabies win just six of the last 42 Tests against the All Blacks and two of the last 19 since 2010.
5. Hong Kong Delight – 4th Test 2010
The fourth Bledisloe Cup Test of 2010 was held in Hong Kong on the back of 10 consecutive All Black victories. With the final siren blown and trailing by five points, the Wallabies desperately pressed the All Blacks line. After five phases the ball was spread to the right and into the hands of 20-year-old James O’Connor. The youngster feigned right before continuing on his line through despairing defenders to score the match-levelling try.
His job wasn’t done here though, with the boy from Southport charged with kicking the match-winning conversion. Like water off a duck’s back he nailed the kick and with it, a famous victory was won. At the time it felt like the beginning of a new era but unfortunately, despite the gloriousness of the moment, it proved a false dawn.
4. Two Sausages Please – 3rd Test 1990
After seven Tests without a victory, the Third Test of the 1990 Series was anything but a dead rubber for the Wallabies. One of the first teams in world Rugby to stare down the Haka, the young Aussies had refused to be overawed by the All Blacks. While the results hadn’t yet reflected it, the tide was beginning to turn as a result.
They finally got their rewards in the third Test, a 21-9 victory which had its exclamation mark with a Phil Kearns try. A loose throw at a lineout close to the Aussies tryline saw the ball fall to 23-year-old Kearns, who then plunged over the line to score a try. He let opposite number Sean Fitzpatrick know all about it with a two finger salute he later explained away as an order for two sausages for dinner.
While it would be two years before they got their hands on the Bledisloe Cup, they would beat the All-Blacks twice in 1991 on the way to their first World Cup. The golden era had begun.
3. Gregan saves the day – Only Test 1994
With time running down at the Sydney Football Stadium in the only Bledisloe Cup Test of 1994, Australia was clinging desperately to a four-point lead in the face of a fast-finishing New Zealand assault. Receiving the ball out wide, dual international Jeff Wilson stepped inside one Wallaby defender before beating two more tacklers to find himself on a path to the tryline and victory.
As the speedster pinned back his ears and set sail for the line, the crowd had their hearts in their mouths unaware of the impact the smallest man on the field was about to have on the contest. Moving quickly in cover defence, George Gregan in just his fourth Test for Australia, met Wilson in a textbook tackle. With the All Black already diving across the line, it was Australia’s last gasp and it was successful with the ball breaking free and with it New Zealand’s hold on the Bledisloe Cup. In that moment a Wallaby hero was born.
2. Kefu’s Most Important Try – Second Test 2001
Australia’s four-year hold on the Bledisloe Cup looked in serious danger in the final minute of the 2nd Test in 2001. A scrum win close to the line saw George Gregan shift the ball wide to Stephen Larkham who, after moving the defensive line in the opposite direction, turned the ball inside to a rampaging Totai Kefu. Despite the efforts of five All-Blacks, Kefu could not be stopped and he crashed over the line to win the match and ensure the Wallabies retained Lord Bledisloe’s gift for the fifth year.
1. Nobody’s Perfect – 2nd Test 2000
After losing one of the greatest Tests ever played the week before, Australia needed to win in Wellington in the Second Test of the 2000 Series to retain the Trophy. Trailing the game well past 80 minutes, a penalty offered the Wallabies a chance of victory. Enter John Eales. Nicknamed Nobody, because nobody’s perfect, the skipper who wasn’t the first choice kicker took the ball and lined up the shot at victory. Never in doubt, Eales nailed the conversion ensuring that moments later got his hands on the Bledisloe Cup once again.
It has been a looooong wait for the Wallabies and their fans to once again hold the famous trophy, let’s hope the 2018 series ends the drought and adds another golden moment in Australian Bledisloe Cup history.