Tri Nations 2000
Eales kicks Wallabies to glory
August 5, 2000
Report Match details
Date/Time: Aug 5, 2000, 14:35 local, 02:35 GMT
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
New Zealand 23 - 24 Australia
Attendance: 36500  Half-time: 20 - 18
Tries: Cullen 2
Cons: Mehrtens 2
Pens: Mehrtens 3
Tries: Mortlock, Roff
Cons: Mortlock
Pens: Eales, Mortlock 3
Australia captain John Eales is swamped by team-mates after kicking the winning penalty against New Zealand, New Zealand v Australia, Tri Nations, Westpac Stadium, August 5 2000.
John Eales is swamped by his team-mates after kicking the winning penalty
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When these two sides last met in Wellington, in 1996 at the late but little-lamented Athletic Park, the elements delivered a good old-fashioned mud bath and a huge beating for the Wallabies. Today, in crisper, more benign conditions, tables were turned, Australian skipper John Eales kicking a sensational match-winning penalty with the last play of the game. His side therefore retained the Bledisloe Cup and threw the Tri Nations series wide open with their 24-23 victory.

It was a test match baptism of fire for the Westpac Stadium in Wellington as the All Blacks and the Wallabies fought out another epic encounter. Three weeks ago, Australians were in despair as Jonah Lomu denied them at the dying moments of the game. This time Australian jubilation was understandable.

The start of the match could never be as explosive as its Sydney equivalent, but both sides immediately showed their intention to attack with ball in hand. All Black enthusiasm foundered on the solidity of the Australian defence and it was the Wallabies who looked the more menacing, Daniel Herbert in particular finding holes in the All Black midfield. Within 16 minutes the All Blacks were facing a crisis, a third minute Mortlock try, which he converted, and one from Roff on the right, giving them a 12 point advantage.

Like the Australians in Sydney, the All Blacks did not panic, patiently stuck to their game plan, and eventually the breaks came. Blackadder was leading by example and Umaga looked dangerous as he broke the line at ease. The rest of the half was dominated by the New Zealand record breakers, Cullen scoring a brace of tries to bring him level with Jeff Wilson, and Mehrtens becoming the highest points scorer in New Zealand test history. Cullen's first, after 19 minutes owed much to Cribb's skill in kicking through, and his second after 24 minutes due to Umaga's break through the middle of the Australian defence. The deficit had been turned around, the All Blacks looked more confident, the Wallabies on the back foot. Mehrtens and Mortlock swapped penalties to give New Zealand the advantage at half time, 20-18.

The second half was largely a stalemate, the unexpected sting very much in the tail end of the tail. Defences got on top and neither side was able to create any clear chances. New Zealand maintained their advantage as Mehrtens and Mortlock traded penalties, but both had further kickable chances to extend their side's lead. The All Blacks will rue a number of lost lineouts late in the game, on their own throw, which handed possession to the opposition at a time when they were desperate to launch any sort of attack. They will also look back with frustration on a number of knock-ons and inaccurate passes which denied them chances to maintain pressure on the Australian line.

Australia will put their win down to that unshakeable belief in their ability to come through. Apart from the opening 20 minutes, they never really achieved any domination, but their defence was solid throughout. We saw a lot more kicking from Larkham than normal and not all of it was purposeful. Little and Herbert always threatened in midfield but the All Black defence progressively got the measure of them.

The All Blacks will be bitterly disappointed. Once they got their noses in front they had the winning of the game. Blackadder had a big game in the loose and his lineout work was generally good. Ron Cribb was used a lot more at the tail and he always made in the hard yards with ball in hand.nProps Meeuws and Hoeft responded to criticism about their work in the loose by putting in a tremendous amount of work. Amongst the backs, Andrew Mehrtens was clearly determined to run much more and he often posed a threat with his breaks and passing. Jonah Lomu was well looked after, we never saw him given the space he needs to emphasise his threat. Ieremia and Alatini worked hard and were successful in the first half specially, but found that the gaps had closed up after the break. Umaga ,too, was allowed fewer opportunities after the break but he had a fine afternoon.

New Zealand pop group True Bliss provided the pre-match entertainment , but it was Australian fans who went away in seventh heaven after the game's stunning climax.

Scorers : New Zealand : 23 Tries :Cullen (2)Conversions: Mehrtens (2)Penalties : Mehrtens (3) Australia : 24 Tries : Mortlock, Roff,Conversions : Mortlock Penalties :Mortlock (3), Eales.

New Zealand - Christian Cullen, Tana Umaga, Alama Ieremia, Jonah Lomu; Pita Alatini, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall; Ron Cribb, Josh Kronfeld, Taine Randell; Norm Maxwell, Todd Blackadder (captain); Kees Meeuws, Anton Oliver, Carl Hoeft.

Replacements: Byron Kelleher, Tony Brown, Leon MacDonald, Reuben Thorne, Troy Flavell, Craig Dowd, Mark Hammett.

Australia - Chris Latham, Stirling Mortlock, Daniel Herbert, Joe Roff; Jason Little, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan; Jim Williams, David Wilson, Mark Connors; John Eales (captain), David Giffin; Fletcher Dyson, Michael Foley, Richard Harry.

Replacements: Ben Tune, Rod Kafer, Sam Cordingley, Toutai Kefu, Matt Cockbain, Jeremy Paul, Glenn Panaho.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).


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