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A ray of light at end of All Black tunnel


Last night's performance was a big mental leap for the Wallabies, writes Georgina Robinson.


Burst of speed ... Pat McCabe eludes the New Zealand defence. Click for more photos

Wallabies hold the All Blacks

The Wallabies surprise the rugby fraternity by halting the rampaging All Blacks' tilt at 16 straight wins with a gritty 18-18 draw in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images

There is life in the old dog yet. For all the talk of a dead rubber, a walkover and the greatest All Blacks side of all time, the Wallabies proved they have depth beyond their first-choice starting XV and have the confidence to dominate on their coming end of year tour.

Wallabies great Geoff Shaw spoke of the ''dark room'' earlier this week, when an athlete encounters a foe so dominant they render themselves observers rather than participants in a fight.

The Wallabies were in that dark room for the first two Tests in the Bledisloe series, overawed by the attacking prowess of the world champions. But for 80 heartening minutes at fortress Suncorp last night, the Wallabies tore off the blinkers and played the All Blacks as if they beat them last week, not 12 months ago, to pull off the most unlikely of draws in front of a sellout home crowd.

It was an error-ridden performance from both sides. The All Blacks, deserted by their trademark polish in the first stanza, regathered themselves in the second half and clawed back a nine-point deficit before taking a three-point lead, one the entire stadium expected the visitors to extend over the final 20 minutes.

But the Wallabies hit back and equalised, eventually holding the All Blacks tryless for the first time since August 2004, when they lost 23-18 to the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Veterans Nathan Sharpe, Keven Mealamu and Dan Carter were all in that Test too.

And while beating the All Blacks remains the one and only criterion for Wallabies success, it is a telling development that a side composed almost entirely of second-choice players mustered the aggression and self-belief to keep their vaunted opponents on the leash.

There were no tries from the Wallabies and a frustrating inability to go for the jugular when the All Blacks were down Tony Woodcock in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The All Blacks, too, were well out of sorts. Carter's missed field goal after the final bell capped an ordinary night for the five-eighth.

Australian blindside breakaway Scott Higginbotham was mightily fortunate not to be sent off for a knee and headbutt on New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and the veteran was justifiably incensed.

But there will be little reflection on the draw in coming days. In the next two weeks, Robbie Deans must gather the last remaining fit athletes and take them into a European winter, where Tests await against France, England, Italy and Wales.

The Beale-McCabe partnership in the midfield showed glimmers of promise but the wing and halfback positions loom as major problems. Provided Nick Phipps and Brett Sheehan stay healthy, it will be possible for Australia to travel with two specialist No.9s. But Deans's preference for three halfbacks - he took Will Genia, Luke Burgess and Phipps to the World Cup - will this week drive him to ask the ARU to allow him to bring Burgess back from France.

The wing situation took a serious turn this week when Dom Shipperley announced his wrist complaint would need surgery. It is possible that first-choice wing Digby Ioane will recover enough from his knee injury to make the tour, but it is by no means a certainty.

It's a depressing exercise rattling off the rest of the injured list. David Pocock said himself making the final two Tests of the tour was his ''best-case scenario'', second-rower James Horwill is still a chance but is quickly running out of time, hooker Stephen Moore is looking likely - as is Saia Fainga'a - and Ben Alexander should be deemed fit.

James O'Connor is out, but Berrick Barnes is on track to return in time.

In many ways this will be Deans's tour. ARU chairman Michael Hawker backed the national coach two weeks ago and last night's result vindicated his faith. It was not a win but it was a crucial display of fight from the Wallabies.

A strong performance on the upcoming tour is crucial for Deans. And they need to stay out of the dark room to really see the light.

97 comments so far

  • 36 points.
    12 penalties
    no tries
    i didn't see the game but the above shows I did not miss much.
    Maybe they should play with a round ball instead

    Date and time
    October 21, 2012, 8:22AM
    • Why bother making a comment if you didn't even watch it. Go and watch soccer and leave this game to people who don't mind some least we get straight back up and keep playing.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 9:02AM
    • You missed heaps! The best Wallaby performance since the match played in HK in 2010. If we can get the regular Wallaby team members to play with that sprit, the ARU will have a cabinet full of silverware again.

      The Magus
      Coffs Harbour
      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 9:08AM
    • Hey Me! You did the wise thing pal by not watching that game as you missed nothing, as that's all it was~a game of nothing, with very little real rugby played.except by the undoubted 'Star and Prima Donna' of the match, Craig Joubert, what a show pony, and I thought the IRB is endeavouring to eradicate this type of refereeing, after all all the supporters want is to see is a decent game for the high price they paid for their tickets, or the amount of frustratedly drunk stubbies if you were watching on TV.

      It was terrible, terrible, terrible rugby~absolute garbage and Robbie surely shouldn't see too many positives out of that rubbish as all it proved is how well the two Kiwis and one Skippy' boy can kick goals, to draw a match Jeeeeeezuz!, spare us all!!!

      Drawn matches is like 'kissing your Sister' and achieves not much at all as there's no winners and I'd imagine the only thing the Aussies' can crow about is they denied one of the best sides to have played the game , a chance of breaking a record!

      The All Blacks tried to spin it wide, both sides of the paddock, but when you're confronted by 12 players lined out like soldiers across the complete width of that paddock defending as if their lives depended on it any decent move was just~ well!~stopped in it's tracks.

      Why is it that opposition players have a thing against McCaw at ruck and maul time in particular?, the only consolation about that is Higginbottam is about to get at least four weeks on the sideline for nothing less than a cowardly 'cheap shot', and he can be assured that he'll get his just deserts usually at the bottom of a ruck sometime soon!

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 9:40AM
    • @Les. I watched the game with interest and concur with MCs comments.

      I admire Union for not wanting to constantly change the rules. However, the current situation of many games being decided by penalties is not a good look.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 10:10AM
    • If you didn't watch the game then it is you who missed out! Commenting on something you haven't seen is not clever. That game would have to rate as one of the best I have seen in recent years not because of the score or any brilliance from either side but because of the belief in themselves this young, inexperienced side showed. As my son said " they've got heart and you can't coach heart". The last 4 mins of the game took 10 years off my life! The real winner last night was the game of Rugby Union followed closely by Australian Rugby. Hats off to all those players who were given a chance to perform. The best thing was no diva behaviour! Perhaps the Coopers, O'Conners and Beales should take a close look at the young fellas on their heels and realise the game is bigger than any one person.

      Wallabies supporter
      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:12AM
    • @Les, it's this sort of attitude by the ARU that is seeing rugby union fade away into insignificance in Australia. I'm a league fan and I know that most games will be won by the team that scores the most tries and very rarely the reverse. I'd gladly spend my hard earned on tickets to the rugby if I thought I might see the sort of games I used to watch 10-15 years ago but somehow I don't think that's likely. The game's administration doesn't seem interested in potential fans like me.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:20AM
    • Go watch the round ball then. Leave rugby for the non-whingers.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:28AM
    • It was a really entertaining match despite the lack of tries. The Wallabies were error-prone but played with spirit and fight and were a lot better than the previous two Bledisloe matches.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:32AM
    • To run with MCs comments, this is why Union has never really caught on -- especially at the club level where no one even turns up to watch it. Too many penalties. Who wants to watch a rugby code where such a high scoring match doesn't even feature a single try? Pathetic. League all the way.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:44AM

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