Wallabies no hope to halt Bledis-woe
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Well, Australia, you had your chance. With two of the three Bledisloe Cup tests at home this year, here was your prime opportunity to win back the trophy that is closest to Antipodean hearts.
Instead, the Wallabies’ diabolical performance in Sydney has delivered New Zealand a tenth consecutive year of trans-Tasman rugby dominance.
Yes, there are still two matches to go, in Auckland and Brisbane. And yes, victory in both would bring the Bledisloe back to Australia. But the chances of that actually happening are laughable at best.
For a start, the Wallabies have not won consecutive games against their fiercest rivals in more than a decade. Does anyone really believe that this squad can go back-to-back against the world’s best?
No team has beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park since the French miracle of 1994. New Zealand has not lost at any home venue in the last three years. History will certainly not be Australia’s friend on Saturday.
More importantly, the All Blacks will be keen to improve upon their display in Sydney, which was rusty to say the least. They really did have an off night last weekend, even if the Wallabies were too inept themselves to take advantage of the situation.
New Zealand lacked rhythm and ruthlessness in attack for long periods of the match. Some of that can be attributed to the enthusiastic refereeing of Alain Rolland, though the whistle-happy Irishman cannot be held accountable for the visitors’ poor finishing.
A strong defensive line and great intensity at the breakdown saved the All Blacks, but you can expect other aspects of their play to lift markedly on Saturday. Their attitude, which was exemplary in Sydney, will be complemented by better execution with the ball.
This team never underperforms in consecutive games. Just ask the Irish squad that toured New Zealand in June. The kiwis played poorly in the second test, and had to steal victory with a drop-goal in the final minute. A week later, they spanked Ireland 60-0.
Meanwhile, an injection of mere mediocrity would constitute improvement for the Wallabies this weekend. Last time they faced the All Blacks at Eden Park, their main playmaker suffered the sporting equivalent of a mental breakdown. It is difficult to imagine the Wallabies even coming close to a performance of sufficient quality this time around.
Of course, the Aussies will also be without captain David Pocock for the game. Though after the lesson he was given by Richie McCaw a week ago, that may actually be something of a silver lining.
Nothing points to an Australian victory on Saturday. Literally, nothing. And even if the impossible does happen, and the Wallabies do win, they will have to beat the world champions again in Brisbane to regain the Bledisloe Cup. Good luck with that.
Between 1951 and 1978, the All Blacks won 12 consecutive Bledisloe series. That record has not been challenged since, but having achieved double digits, the current New Zealand squad will soon be searching for a new milestone to surpass.
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