The All Blacks should demand a formal apology from rugby’s administrators after one of the most unbelievable rulings in the game’s history means their record-breaking 18th straight win will forever be tainted.
And the Wallabies? Well it might be wise to give coach Michael Cheika a wide berth for the next little while given his reaction to a ridiculous and completely unfathomable Television Match Official intervention which robbed Australia of a try and a chance to play the spoilers on their trans-Tasman rivals.
Shaun Veldsman’s decision to direct Nigel Owens to review Henry Speight’s try in the 44th minute of New Zealand’s 37-10 victory in Bledisloe Cup III was nothing short of laughable, and the two men must be called to account after they first discussed Dane Haylett-Petty’s jostle with Julian Savea, and then agreed to overturn the try.
Bernard Foley should have been lining up a conversion – and he virtually was before Owens ordered him to halt – but the Wallabies were instead forced to backtrack as the All Blacks earned a reprieve and the momentum soon followed in the same direction.
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Whether the Wallabies would have been able to maintain what had been easily their best rugby of the season for a long enough period to deny the All Blacks is debatable, but there is no doubting how deflated they must have felt following the officials’ shocking decision.
Like many of the All Blacks’ wins this season, Saturday night’s triumph was achieved through a determined defence and an innate ability to strike when the opportunity presented.
Three first-half tries in Auckland were achieved despite just 33 percent possession and 27 percent territory, yet the finishing skills of Israel Dagg and Anton Lienert-Brown, and half-back nous of TJ Perenara, ensured they went into the break up 15-7.
And while the Speight no-try was a clear winner for shocker of the match, an out-of-sorts Beauden Barrett was a standout second given the fly-half’s three missed conversions must have kept the spark in the Wallabies’ change-room at halftime. Barrett was way off and he was replaced early in the second half.
Michael Cheika was rightfully fuming following the no-try ruling. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
That Australia had played much of the rugby before the break, but had just Rory Arnold’s try to show for it, was a stark reminder of what little space or ball the All Blacks need to hurt teams where it matters most – on the scoreboard.
It’s just that on this occasion the Wallabies should have inflicted a similar sting on their hosts four minutes after the resumption, but they were denied by the aforementioned men in white.
While the Wallabies will curse that call all the way back to Sydney on Sunday, and probably right through to next year’s Bledisloe series, what they, and the rest of us, must simply sit back and applaud is the fashion in which the All Blacks finished the match.
This record-setting run has produced some of the most scintillating play the sport has ever seen and reminded everyone that when rugby is played with such speed, power, skill and guile, there is no other game like it.
Ten minutes after the controversial no-try ruling, the All Blacks were on their way to the record they have craved for so long as Julian Savea scooped up a loose ball and powered on under the posts. But it was the work of Ben Smith, who at full tilt dropped the ball onto his less-preferred left foot, for which this was an example of All Black brilliance.
When Savea thundered down the left wing 15 minutes later, again from turnover ball, it was all his own doing as he slipped two covering Wallabies defenders with raw strength and power to grab a double.
Codie Taylor (L) and Joe Moody celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup. Phil Walter/Getty Images
He was only a few minutes later denied a hat trick – but the winger still had the presence of mind to pop the ball to Dane Coles who has been as much a pivotal part of this history-making sports story as anyone.
Rugby fans of all nations will be wise to remember the contributions of the retired Richie McCaw and the now-Parisian Dan Carter, as well as fellow All Blacks greats Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, for they too helped forge this new world mark.
And then there is the coach, Steve Hansen, who knew the day would come when McCaw, Carter et al would leave the scene, and therefore set in motion the process to make the transformation well before that date arrived.
What we have seen from this great team since the turn of the decade has been nothing short of extraordinary; two World Cup wins, a Bledisloe run which will extend to a 15th year, three Rugby Championship titles and victories all over the globe, all the while doing it in a style that doesn’t just make fans want to return, but demands it.
That we remember the All Blacks’ winning streak in its entirety and not their 18th victory in isolation is perhaps the best avenue for history.
Just don’t expect Henry Speight and the Wallabies to buy into that policy.
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