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Welcome to The Roar’s comprehensive coverage of the 2018 Bledisloe Cup.
The pinnacle of Trans-Tasman sport, the Bledisloe Cup is one of the most revered trophies in world rugby. Contested each year between Australia and New Zealand, it has seen some classic encounters and has cultivated one of the greatest international rugby rivalries.
The All Blacks are the defending champions, having won the series 2-1 in 2017.
In 2018, the matches are scheduled to be played in Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo. The third match being played in Tokyo is to be played ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, giving both teams an opportunity to experience the conditions in Japan in what could be a deciding match.
The history of the Bledisloe Cup dates back to 1931, when New Zealand’s governor-general, Lord Bledisloe, donated the trophy for the two nations to compete for. New Zealand won the initial encounter in a 20-13 victory in Auckland, and it wasn’t until 1934 that Australia got their hands on the trophy.
While the Bledisloe Cup is now an annual instalment, it wasn’t until 1982 that the two countries agreed to contest the trophy on a yearly basis. The arrival of the Tri-Nations tournament ensured the Wallabies and All Blacks would face off at least twice a year – the series had previously varied anywhere between one and five matches long.
2008 saw the first ever Bledisloe Cup match played outside of Australia or New Zealand when Hong Kong hosted the fourth and final game of the series. The fixture was repeated for the following two years, the last of which saw Australia snatch a memorable last-gasp win courtesy of an injury-time try and conversion.
The Trans-Tasman Tests have been dismal watching for Wallabies fans in recent years, with the All Blacks holding the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 thanks to a streak of 14 consecutive series victories (three of those series – 2004, 2007 and 2015 – were actually drawn, but in the case of a tied series the trophy remains with the current holder).
The period before 2003 actually saw a streak of Australian dominance. The Wallabies held the Bledisloe Cup for five years – their longest ever streak – thanks to a string of last-minute victories. John Eales and Matt Burke both slotted last-gasp penalties in 2000 and 2002 respectively, while Totai Kefu stunned the All Blacks in 2001 with a go-ahead try in the 79th minute.
All in all, New Zealand hold the advantage in total Bledisloe titles with 46 to Australia’s 12.
The Wallabies will play the Bledisloe Cup starting August 18th, 2018. Australia’s national team will look to challenge the consensus best nation in the world.
In the last four years, Australia only has one win and zero series victories. Below is a schedule of the 2018 games between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
2018 Bledisloe Cup matches
|18 Aug||NZ 38-13 AUS||Wallabies vs All Blacks||ANZ Stadium, Sydney|
|25 Aug||5:35 PM||All Blacks vs Wallabies||Eden Park, Auckland|
|27 Oct||TBC||All Blacks vs Wallabies||Nissan Stadium, Yokohama|
*All times are in AEST/AEDT (Sydney/Melbourne time)
The first two Tests between Australia and New Zealand for 2017 doubled-up as Rugby Championship matches, while the third and final match at Suncorp Stadium was a standalone Bledisloe Cup encounter.
The All Blacks won the first Test, scoring eight consecutive tries to build up a massive advantage. The Wallabies put in a strong second-half effort but it couldn’t close the gap, New Zealand winning 54-34.
The Wallabies very nearly pinched the second Test, leading for most of the night but coming undone in the final minutes when Beauden Barrett scored the winning try in a 35-29 victory.
The third and final Bledisloe was a hard-fought encounter, despite the series already won by the All Blacks. In tough conditions, the Wallabies held on to register their first win over New Zealand in 805 days. The final score: 23-18. Winger Reece Hodge knocked over a penalty goal from 54 metres out to give the Australians a five-point lead in the dying stages of the game. Despite a typical late resurgence from New Zealand, they were unable to replicate their last-minute try scoring efforts from Dunedin.
The 2016 series saw three dominant performances from the All Blacks seal an ultimately easy victory.
The first match saw Australia absolutely pummeled in Sydney, with the All Blacks running out convincing 42-8 winners. 65,328 fans packed ANZ Stadium to watch the match. It was hard to know which was more telling, the All Blacks sharpness and pace off the back of Super Rugby finals, or the Wallabies inability when it came to lineouts, handling and defensive organisation.
Back home in Wellington, the All Blacks didn’t let up. They trounced Australia once again at a scoreline of 29-9, sealing a 14th straight Bledisloe Cup triumph. Australia put in a hard fought effort, bouncing back strongly from their disappointment at home the previous week, but it wasn’t enough to get past the clinical All Blacks who extended their impeccable record at home.
The All Blacks won the third Bledisloe Cup Test in a 37-10 victory. The Wallabies were able to keep pace with them early on and might have caused a boilover had they not been denied a try in controversial circumstances – but ultimately, when the All Blacks lifted gears they run away with a comprehensive win.
2015 was the closest-fought series between Australia and New Zealand for the best part of a decade. The Wallabies came into Game 1 without a victory against the All Blacks since the lead-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, having racked up a poor record against New Zealand under coaches Robbie Deans and Ewen McKenzie.
But with Michael Cheika taking the reins, the Wallabies stunned the Kiwis in the second half of Game 1 after trailing 6-3 at the break. Cheika played Michael Hooper and David Pocock together in the back row, but it was backup halfback Nick White who was the hero, as he came off the bench to nail a 48-metre penalty and score the match-sealing try in the 27-19 victory.
The rare win was short-lived though, as the All Blacks bounced back in dominant fashion in Game 2 in Eden Park. Cheika had tinkered with his side with a mind to testing out different combinations ahead of the World Cup, and the Wallabies were duly outclassed by the tried-and-tested New Zealand outfit, who romped to a 41-13 victory to retain the Bledisloe Cup.