Oh What a Night: Wallabies Beat All Blacks 23-18 in Brisbane

Australia v New Zealand

If ever there was a time to break into song for Australian Rugby, it is now. The choice needn’t matter, as the positive headlines keep coming. That is what happens whenever the Wallabies beat All Blacks–it makes front page news across the nation.

The choice might be an Aussie rock song. It could be a ballad, maybe some hip-hop or jazz. But the choice that fans might slip onto their record players is ‘Oh what a Night‘. The pop ballad might be more in coach Michael Cheika’s vintage but it is suitable, because against the World Champion All Blacks, they put on a winning performance.

The plaudits came quickly after the match conclusion. Interviews with both players and coaches from either side, all agreed that the team playing the best were the Wallabies. Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Scott Sio and Sean McMahon all played well, and they deserve to let their hair down.

Oh What a Night: Wallabies Beat All Blacks 23-18 in Brisbane

Rugby in Australia was suffering from a bitter taste after the poorest Super Rugby season ever, so being able to ‘clear their throat’ with a song will be a positive. A dose of medicine that is good for the patient.

The 45,000 strong crowd arrived late, but they got to enjoy a respite from the regular Bledisloe Cup results. Losing the two opening matches continued the All Blacks grip on the trophy, but a victory sure does improve the attitude of the faithful.

The mix of Wallabies fans in gold, with the All Black followers made for a good mix. No animosity was shown, but once the whistle blew, it was ‘War’ as usual. Even if it’s something which happens three times a year–although tonight, with the happy ending that fans left with after tonight’s victory.

Wallabies 23 – Tries: Reece Hodge, Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete; Conversion: Bernard Foley; Penalties: Hodge (2)
All Blacks 18 – Tries: Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane; Cons: Lima Sopoaga; Pens: (2)

The scoresheet shows a close result, and it was not entirely assured until the 81st minute, but it was an All Black mistake that closed out the game–which just about sums up the visitors night.

All Blacks Always Behind the Ball

Considering the difference in results across the last 15 years that the All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup, even behind on the scoresheet, their fans will have been confident. Saying that though, how many times has an New Zealand side been surprised by an intercept try [as happened to open this game] only for the World Champions to storm back? Plenty, so fans could not become excited too soon.

So why was tonight so different? No Beauden Barrett. That will be a factor, but that would be an insult to Lima Sopoaga. He was called on to direct the team, and didn’t fail as a first-five. He was effective, yet it was not the same backline as fans normally see.

No Brodie Retallick. That was a major factor. And again not entirely at the fault of replacement Scott Barrett. But losing the big guy had an affect on the approach to defence. It became about more effort, rather than the ever reliable Retallick doing his usual multiple tasks. And because he does them all so well, he was missing in areas that the Australians now did better at.

The Wallabies managed to take advantage of these variables in the New Zealand team. They made a nuisance of themselves at the breakdown, worked hard to challenge the line and at the end of the first half, Israel Folau made a blinding run to score a momentum changing try.

Reece Hodge Penalty Kicking a Great Call

By the 67th minute, with three tries for them, the Wallabies could have been in a more secure position. Yet the usually reliable Bernard Foley had missed several conversions. Those, along with a penalty attempt were worth at least seven points–that would have made the score 24-13.

Asked post-match, when and how the call to switch place kickers was made, captain Michael Hooper explained “no, it was made on the field. Hodgie came in really quick and wanted that kick. I think it’s great when you have a kicker who comes in.”

And the two attempts that Hodge attempted tonight, were on target. They were match changers too, as each put a small points gap onto the All Blacks shoulders. Although an Rieko Ioane try seemed to herald the prerequisite ‘comeback’ from the visitors, Hodge’s last kick gave his team a five point lead–and placed all the pressure on the New Zealand team.

Wallabies Success Makes Fans Believe Again

With the clock counting down, signs of a repeat of Dunedin were evident. Five points is one score, and if any International side is able to strike, then it is the All Blacks. So while the pressure was on, the clock ticked away.

Every second was a breath for Australian rugby fans, and with the prospect of the ‘Wallabies beat All Blacks’ headline in the waiting line, it was all that fans could do to count down to the final whistle. Five, four, three, two…..

Still enough time for the guests to run in for a try. Which looked quite possible, on attack inside the Wallabies half until the unthinkable happened. Improbably, they made an error, and the game ended to the roaring approval from the crowd.

It was a win that did more than only make the aggregate; Wallabies 1, All Blacks 2. It makes fans believe again. Their team can perform–certainly at Suncorp Stadium. The ledger here now reads Win, Loss, Draw, Win. And that is more positive than some will presume.

Sure, the series was lost, but as Michael Hooper claimed on Friday, “for us to beat them in front of a home crowd, would be fantastic”. Now the win is achieved, the celebrating can begin. And oh, what a night it will have been for fans and players alike.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images