The Roar
The Roar


Dark days in Wallaby history

Roar Guru
10th April, 2014
1435 Reads

This is a subversive piece dedicated to Kiwis who read The Roar detailing the worst games in Wallaby history. But don’t worry Wallabies fans, next week I will feature an item on the All Blacks’ worst performances.

Sydney Cricket Ground, August 9, 1952: Australia: 15 (Brian Cox, Nick Shehadie, Eddie Stapleton, Colin Windon tries) Fiji: 17 (Semisi Ralagi, Wame Salabogi tries; Taniela Ranavue 1 pen, 1dg, Suliasi Vatubua 1 pen, 1 con)
In the closing moments, Australia was stuck on their own 25. The Sunday Herald described what followed:

“Australia won a lineout, and the backs handling beautifully and running strongly, cut through the defence and flashed downfield. Breakaway Colin Windon and centre Herb Barker supported winger Eddie Stapleton as he neared the tryline. When Stapleton was tackled, Barker snapped up the ball and passed out to Windon, who scored in the corner.”

However Eddie Stapleton missed the conversion and Fiji achieved what Phil Tressider, in the Sunday Telegraph, called “the biggest upset in Australian rugby union history.”

Earlier Fiji led by 9-6 at halftime. Nick Shehadie, the Lebanese-Australian prop destined to become Sir Nick, Lord Mayor of Sydney, scored the first try in the second-half.

Taniela Ranavue snapped a 40-metre drop goal to tie the scores. Loose forward Colin Windon created a try for wing Eddie Stapleton and it was 12-12.

There it stayed until the last few minutes when, from a line-out 30 yards out, Fijian outside-half Wame Salabogi broke through and charged over under the Australian posts to leave his half-back partner Suliasi Vatubua a simple conversion.

Australia missed six kicks at goal during the match.

The 1952 Fijians were Methodists and teetotallers. They even volunteered to tidy their own hotel rooms!


Fiji repeated their success over Australia in 1954, winning 18-16. Up by a point with time up, Australia conceded a penalty on fulltime which Taniela Ranavue kicked for the win. Shehadie, who played 114 games for the Wallabies, scored tries in both games.

Eden Park, Auckland, September 16, 1972: Australia: 3 (Jeff McLean 1 pen) New Zealand: 38 (Sid Going, Ian Kirkpatrick, Alistair Scown, Alan Sutherland, Pole Whiting, Bryan Williams tries; Trevor Morris 4 con, 2 pen)
The first match ever broadcast live on New Zealand television was a disaster for Australia, they received their biggest ever hiding by New Zealand. Australia trailed 0-16 at halftime and sealed their reputation as the “woeful Wallabies” with an awful performance.

Australia only won five out of 13 games on tour, was outscored 16 tries to three in the three match Test series and suffered embarrassing losses to Otago (0-26), West Coast-Buller (10-15) and Hawke’s Bay (14-15).

Seven McLean played for Australia and Greg Davis, educated at Sacred Heart College in Auckland, played his 41st and final Test match.

Australia also lost the first ever Tri Nations match, 6-43 to the All Blacks at Athletic Park in Wellington in 1996.

June 30, 1973, Brisbane Australia: 11 (John Cole, Eric Tindall tries; Arthur McGill pen) Tonga: 16 (Tali Kavapalu, Sami Latu, Sione Mafi Pahulu, Isikeli Vave tries)
Tonga lost the first Test in Sydney by 30-12, conceding five tries. With 10 minutes to play they were down 11-8 in this game, but scored two tries on the blind side to pinch a dramatic win.

Mark Ioane, on debut, was made a scapegoat. He was dropped for his defensive lapses and took a year to regain his place, later going on to captain the Wallabies.

Tonga’s captain Mafi was capped 14 times for Tonga. He played for Souths in Brisbane between 1977 and 1985. His grandson Steve Mafi played for the Waratahs.


Between 1966 and 1974 Australia only won 7 out of 38 Tests and scored just 49 tries.

August 23, 1997: Australia: 22 (David Knox, Jason Little, Joe Roff; Knox 2 con 1 pen) South Africa: 61 (Mark Andrews, Warren Brosnihan, James Dalton, Jannie de Beer, Johan Erasmus, Percy Montgomery 2, Pieter Rossouw tries; de Beer 6 con, 3 pen)
In their previous Test Australia had scored 24 unanswered points in the second-half against the All Blacks.

The trouble was that the All Blacks scored 36 points in the first spell. In this game they were only down 15-18 at halftime, but conceded more points than in any other Test with a shocking performance that resulted in Coach Greg Smith losing his job and ARU general manager John O’Neil public slamming the teams’ performance.

Jannie de Beer’s haul of 26 points is still a record for the Springboks’ against Australia, de Beer scored 183 points in 13 Tests and kicked a world record five drop goals against England in the 1999 World Cup, which was won by Australia featuring 10 starters from this game.

But this was not Australia’s biggest defeat in terms of the final margin – in 2008 Australia lost 8-53 to South Africa.

July 17, 2011: Australia: 23 (Digby Ioane, Matt Giteau; Giteau 3 pen, 2 con) Samoa: 32 (Alesana Tuilagi, Paul Williams, Kane Thompson, George Pisi tries; Tusi Pisi 3 con, 2 pen)
Ranked Number two in the world at the time and only six days after the Reds had won the Super Rugby crown, Australia stumbled to an embarrassing defeat; the previous meeting between the two nations had ended in a 74-7 victory for Australia.

The keys to Samoa’s win were abrasive defence, effective work at the breakdown and a fast start. Australia was poor all around.

Paul Williams, the son of the great All Black Bryan Williams, went in for a try in Matt Giteau’s last Test for Australia.