The Eden Project
August 4, 2011
Eden Park has witnessed some epic Bledisloe Cup clashes between the All Blacks and the Australians over the years. © PA Photos
The Bledisloe Cup - bar the World Cup - is the hottest contended trophy between Australia and New Zealand. And this Saturday will see Australia try and break a 25-year duck and notch their first win at Eden Park since 1986.
Eden Park has hosted its fair share of Bledisloe Cup classics over the years and history is definitely on New Zealand's side. In the 21 clashes at the ground - the All Blacks have prevailed on 17 occasions.
And a Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park has also witnessed the debut of one of Australia's favourite sons - Tim Horan in 1989. However, Horan's debut is not enough to warrant a place in our latest selection. This week's Scrum Sevens looks back at seven epic Bledisloe Cup encounters in Auckland ahead of this weekend's much-anticipated showdown.
Australia claim the 1931 meeting between the two sides was the inaugural Bledisloe Cup game - though the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) claims that Lord Bledisloe pledged the cup to the two nations in a meeting days after the September 12 Test. Therefore - the NZRU believe the 1932 three-Test series between the two sides in Australia was the occasion when the two sides first contested for the trophy. Squabbling aside - New Zealand won the trophy on both occasions.
If we take 1931 as the first clash then it fits neatly into this week's Scrum Sevens. New Zealand won 20-13 and while the score is fairly unremarkable, the number of debutants in the All Blacks side is of note. New Zealand rewarded eight players with their first Test start with Kelly Ball marking his debut with a try.
Australia went into this clash on September 24 having beaten the All Blacks for only the second time in New Zealand three weeks prior - winning 11-6 in Wellington. With the carrot of their first ever Bledisloe Cup-clinching win on New Zealand soil on the menu - Australia looked to build on their win with another strong performance.
Try-scoring flanker Col Windon made it two in two with a try against the Kiwi's with Neville Emery and John Solomon also crossing the line en route to Australia's 16-9 victory. The Kiwi's - complete with five debutants - were powerless to stop their rivals and only managed one score through winger Roy Roper.
With the Bledisloe Cup already sewn up for another year - following wins at Wellington and Christchurch - the All Blacks tried to make it three from three against the Aussies at Eden Park. While the game was effectively a dead-rubber, Greg Cornelson had different ideas and recorded his first ever try in the green and gold jersey. The No.8 was not content with just the one score however, as he powered over the line a further three times.
Cornelson - who became the first forward since 1881 to score four tries in a Test - unbeknownst to him made an indelible mark on future Wallabies legend John Eales. Eales recalled: "I walked outside and met my neighbour; he said 'did you watch the Test against the All Blacks?' I said 'yeah, we flogged them easy, it was just New Zealand' and he pulled me aside and said 'you don't realise what you've just seen, because what you have just seen has never happened before in the history of Australia-New Zealand Test matches. When it comes to rugby there is no team better than the All Blacks, what you have seen is something very, very rare.'
Their win against the All Blacks was the first since 1964 and gave them the momentum to retake the Bledisloe Cup the following year in 1979.
With Australia and New Zealand winning a game apiece in 1986 - the match at Eden Park on September 6 was billed as the Bledisloe decider between the two sides. Australia - complete with the likes of Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones and David Campese - were aiming to bring the Bledisloe back Down Under for the first time since 1980.
The All Blacks - captained by David Kirk - had not lost a game at Eden Park since 1979 and clearly had history on their side. However, despite having soon-to-be World Cup winning Kirk in their side, they could do nothing as the Wallabies ran them ragged crossing the line on two occasions with Campese and fullback Andrew Leeds the try-scoring heroes for the Wallabies. However, New Zealand were to take their revenge over the next few years - not losing the Bledisloe again until 1992.
Following their 50-21 hammering of Australia in Sydney the previous week, the All Blacks went into their clash against the Wallabies on August 16 hoping to regain the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1997 - with prop Al Baxter making his first appearance.
A first-half double from All Blacks winger Doug Howlett gave the home side the advantage at the break in a typical New Zealand winter's deluge. With Elton Flatley and Carlos Spencer exchanging penalties the All Blacks looked comfortable going into the closing stages of the game leading 21-12. However, George Smith crashed over to give Flatley the chance to cut the deficit to two points. Flatley failed and despite a late Wallabies onslaught, the Kiwi's hung on to record an important victory.
The All Blacks were nearly left red-faced when they were on the verge of squandering a 20-point lead over the Wallabies on September 3. A Doug Howlett double and a further score from Richie McCaw put New Zealand 20-0 in front with lock Mark Chisholm cutting the deficit for Australia before the break.
A quick second-half double from Mark Gerrard and Lloyd Johansson brought the tie back to 20-19 and the Wallabies threatened to gate-crash the All Blacks' party. However - relying on the boot of youngster Luke McAlister - the All Blacks re-took their lead and Howlett completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes left on the clock. Australia captain - George Gregan- bemoaned the Wallabies' errors saying: "The All Blacks are a very dangerous team and can make you pay if you miss tackles. They got off to a flyer." Sound familiar? John Smit blamed his side's loss to the All Blacks for a similar reason last Saturday. It seems certain sides have yet to learn their lessons.
With the familiar story of the Bledisloe Cup wrapped up for the All Blacks - Australia came into the Test on August 19 playing for pride - and they very nearly saved face.
A try from wing Lote Tuqiri and one from Rocky Elsom - along with the boot of Stirling Mortlock - gave the Wallabies a commanding 20-11 lead at the break. However, the All Blacks struck back through Chris Jack and Luke McAlister to re-take the lead 31-20 going into the final ten minutes. A late Tuqiri try put some gloss on the scoreboard for the away side but the game will be remembered for his tackle on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
The Wallabies seemingly went into the game with the sole purpose of containing the world-class openside and Phil Waugh set the ball rolling in the 12th minute with an unpunished forearm smash on the All Blacks skipper. Waugh was later sin-binned for a late tackle on Ali Williams but it was Tuqiri's dump tackle on McCaw which grabbed the headlines.
Unpunished during the match - Tuqiri was later awarded a five match ban for his offence. The spear tackle nearly prompted a diplomatic incident with then Kiwi Prime Minister Helen Clark weighing into the debate saying: "One hesitates as just someone in the stand to voice an opinion, but certainly I felt someone should have been sent off. I thought it was absolutely appalling. We witnessed several acts of assault against the All Blacks captain and it was very, very ugly to see."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.