While it’s not been well publicised, the Junior Wallabies beat New Zealand 24-nil in the deciding match of the Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship, an annual tournament featuring Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan.
Although headlines were dominated by the Israel Folau saga and Super Rugby, this result is equally important – to not only beat the Kiwis, but to keep them scoreless, is a huge feat.
It’s only the second time that Australia has beaten New Zealand in ten encounters, and also represents NZ’s largest ever loss.
It has to be said, though, that New Zealand made a number of uncharacteristic errors, while the Australian kicking game pinned them down in their 22 more than once.
While this is an achievement in its own right, it also comes as a refreshing relief from the narrative of New Zealand beating Australia that we’ve seen at every level of rugby, whether that be under-20s, schoolboys, Bledisloe Cup, women’s, or sevens.
Every so often, videos of the 2012 Junior World Cup final are shared – a game top-heavy with household names of today like Brodie Retallick, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo.
And very possibly in another World Cup cycle or two, the players who ran around on Saturday will hold down the top jobs.
This almost already happens, with Isaac Lucas – brother of Matt and Ben – likely to play for the Reds on Friday night after starting at fullback against NZ.
The Queensland squad for the upcoming National Schools Championships in July contains more players from right across the board – state and private schools alike – in a move that hopefully sets a precedent to turn away from the traditionally elitist stereotype of rugby in Australia.
Claims about a lack of depth in the juniors, especially outside of NSW and Queensland after the axing of the Force, look to be unfounded based on Saturday’s result.
Keeping them in Australian rugby will also be a challenge, as the NRL and other rugby organisations will chase them.
On the weekend, the Aussies showed they have what it takes.
Their intensity was unrivalled and they made a point of coming away with points from almost every trip into the opposition half – something a number of Aussie teams struggle with.
It’s a big step up from under-20s to international rugby, but that game gives hope that these players can do it.