The All Blacks will look to clean sweep the Wallabies in 2012. Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au/Jono Searle
It might be clutching at straws, but if Wallaby fans want something to cling to heading in to Saturday night’s clash with the all-conquering All Blacks , Australia has actually won the final Bledisloe Cup Test in each of the past two years. The Kiwis claimed the biggest prize on offer last season when they lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup, but Australia claimed a surprise Tri Nations win courtesy of the 25-20 victory at Suncorp Stadium last August.
That was the last time the All Blacks tasted defeat, and 16 matches on, the Wallabies look no closer to breaking the stranglehold New Zealand has over world rugby at the moment. The last time our trans-Tasman neighbours were on this kind of streak, Australia ended it at 15 wins with a last-minute win in Hong Kong back in 2010. James O’Connor was the hero that day with a try and conversion after the siren, but like the vast majority of the Wallabies’ top XV, he’s unavailable for selection due to injury.
Australia has now lost Digby Ioane to a knee injury, but regained the hard-running Adam Ashley-Cooper, who suffered a head knock in Pretoria against South Africa late last month. The Waratahs utility back is a good first tryscorer option, having crossed the whitewash six times against the All Blacks throughout his career, a mark bettered only by David Campese (8) and Matthew Burke (7).
Apart from the 54-15 win over Argentina in round five of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks haven’t been blowing teams off the park this season. Steve Hansen’s team has been nigh on impossible to score against, though. They conceded just 66 points in six games throughout the tournament, including a 22-0 shutout of the green and gold in Auckland. It was the first time since 1973 a Wallabies outfit had failed to score in a Test, and 50 years since the All Blacks had managed to hold Australia to zero.
It’s not just New Zealand’s defence which is a concern. Robbie Deans’ team has failed to fire with ball in hand of late. Four times in their last sixteen Tests the Wallabies have been to held to single digits. Prior to that, Australia had scored ten or more points in 26 consecutive internationals. While the under points total looks attractive , keep in mind that the last three end-of-season Tests between these teams have finished with 51, 50 and 45 total points scored .
The margin has also been tight in the four previous encounters between the teams at Suncorp Stadium. The All Blacks won the first three Tests by a combined total of just 15 points, prior to Australia’s five-point win there last year. Referee Craig Joubert has controlled six trans-Tasman matches. Australia won the first, but the All Blacks have triumphed in the last five.
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