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Lithuania thanks Wallabies for ending All Blacks' winning streak

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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

VILNIUS: Mighty minnows Lithuania paid tribute on Monday to the Wallabies for halting the All Blacks' unbeaten run, which threatened to end the Baltic nation's oddball record for the longest series of victories in the sport.

The Lithuanian Rugby Federation's general secretary Irmantas Kukulskis told AFP they had been waiting with bated breath as the All Blacks edged ever closer to their 18-match record, recognised by the International Rugby Board.

New Zealand's 16-match run ended when the Wallabies held them 18-18 in the Bledisloe Cup in Brisbane on Saturday.

"We were waiting for this moment and today we can only thank the Australian national team for helping us to keep this record," Kukulskis told AFP.

"Rugby is not very popular in Lithuania. We're amateurs and the federation's run by enthusiasts," he said.

"So we're very glad and proud to have such a record," he added, although the Lithuanians are fully aware that their unbeaten run came against much smaller fry than the All Blacks' opponents.

Lithuania play in European rugby's third tier -- not counting the top-flight Six Nations, from which promotion and relegation are not automatic.

In April 2010 they chalked up their 18th consecutive victory, in a European Nations Cup match against Serbia. Their four-year winning streak ended a month later when they lost to Ukraine in a Rugby World Cup qualifier.

"We are a small country, and this record attracts attention. It's a pleasure to hear the name of Lithuania among such greats as Australia or New Zealand," said Kukulskis.

"This is sport, and we understand the record may be broken one day," he added.

The sport is very much a minority interest in the republic of three million people, where basketball is king. But there are enough hardy souls to run a domestic league and a national team whose members include a handful who play in Sweden or English rugby's lower tiers.

Lithuania only returned to the global sporting fold after breaking free from five decades of Soviet rule in 1990.

AFP

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Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
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FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
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Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
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NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
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IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
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TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
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WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
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IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
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SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
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