Tri Nations 2004
Last-gasp Wallabies deny Springboks
July 31, 2004
Clyde Rathbone celebrates after giving the Wallabies victory
© Getty Images
George Gregan's 100th test in a Wallaby jersey turned out to be a highlight as the Wallabies kept alive their Tri-Nations hopes with a heart-stopping 30-26 win over South Africa.
But not before a massive fright. They trailed 16-15 at the break and it required a try nine minutes from time by former South Africa under-21 international Clyde Rathbone, now wearing the gold of Australia, to finish off a spirited Springbok side.
South Africa gave an early indication that they had every intention of spoiling Gregan's 100th test cap party. They saw off an early flurry from the Aussies before taking the ball up themselves and English referee Chris White ruled that the home side had come in from the side at a ruck.
Gwent Dragons star Percy Montgomery, who has been a revelation back in Springbok colours, conquered the wind to make it 3-0. But it was a matter of minutes before the Wallabies mustered a reply, with left wing Lote Tuqiri beating Montgomery and Breyton Paulse to Stephen Larkham's hanging cross-kick.
Centre Matt Giteau kicked the conversion. What followed was a remarkable spell by the South Africans, who proved again they are a re-born side under coach Jake White. Flyhalf Jaco van der Westhuyzen scored their first try after collecting left wing Jean de Villiers' grubber.
The thrust to the left, which also involved right wing Paulse, showed that the Springboks' one-dimensional ways of recent ways are something of the past. Montgomery added another penalty before De Villiers intercepted Larkham's pass to No 8 David Lyons to make the scoreline a remarkable 16-7.
The Wallabies, however, showed their class and after a surge up field Larkham scored thanks to half-hearted defence by Van der Westhuyzen. Giteau's conversion did not split the posts, but there were no such problems on the hooter from a penalty and it was a one-point ball game as the teams walked into the tunnel.
Giteau and Montgomery traded penalties to leave the Springboks 19-18 up with 30 minutes to go. But the Wallabies were doing an excellent job of spoiling South Africa's lineout ball and manipulating their defence.
Larkham, in particular, was brilliant and named man of the match for his efforts. Fullback Chris Latham got in for a try after Larkham had skipped past Bok prop Eddie Andrews and floated a long pass to his left.
But White's Boks are made of stern stuff and, with less than 20 minutes to go, took the lead when Gaffie du Toit, on for De Villiers, chased down De Wet Barry's grubber and scored. Montgomery's conversion made it 26-23.
But the Boks suffered heartache for the second time in the space of a week. Last week they were killed off by a late Doug Howlett try and this time it was Rathbone. It did not make it easier to stomach that he is a South African.
Matthew Burke, who had come on for Giteau, converted and it was 30-26. South Africa mounted a desperate flurry at the end, but the Wallabies' defence held firm to keep them in the hunt.
Australia: Tries: Left wing Lote Tuqiri, flyhalf Stephen Larkham, fullback Chris Latham, right wing Clyde Rathbone. Conversions: Centre Matt Giteau, replacement centre Matt Burke. Penalties: Giteau (2).
South Africa: Tries: Flyhalf Jaco van der Westhuyzen, left wing Jean de Villiers, replacement wing Gaffie du Toit. Conversions: Fullback Percy Montgomery. Penalties: Montgomery (3).