What a game of Rugby! Well two games of Rugby. Both followed the same format, with Australia streaking ahead at the start then the Springboks pulling them back in. But a different result in each battle. South Africa were successful in Pretoria, but the Wallabies reversed that with an amazing kick in the last minute of the game in Bloemfontein.
In both matches the Wallabies started off like a house on fire, steaming ahead with tries coming quickly and from all directions. In Pretoria they scored three tries, one of them disallowed, in the first 4 minutes and led 21 – 7 early in the first half. From there South Africa started to reign in the Aussies. A total of 52 points were scored by both sides by half time, with Springboks leading 28 – 24. In the second half the Springboks dominated with Australia scoring only one more try, while the South Africans added another 20 points in a sensational festival of Rugby.
Who would believe that could be matched, or even surpassed when the two sides met again 7 days later in Bloemfontein? Once again the Wallabies came out like a steam train. Matt Giteau opened the scoring with a penalty, but this was soon matched by Morne Steyn to even things up. But Australia took the lead again in the eighth minute with a try from Beale after he was set up by O’Connor, repaying the compliment from the previous week. Not to be outdone O’Connor went over the line himself a few minutes later for his third try in 7 days. The Springboks pulled back a penalty. But the Aussie forwards decided to get on the scoreboard with Stephen Moore going over for his third test try. The Australian hookers were one of the big stories of this encounter with Moore making a great comeback as the starting Hooker, but Saia Faingaa disgraced himself with a spear tackle when he came on as a late substitute. This resulted in a yellow card and him spending more of his allotted time on the bench than on the pitch.
The Wallabies led by what seemed like an unassailable 18 points at half time. But they started the second half with a knock on by Drew Mitchell which led to the opening try by Springbok Prop Steenkamp. The Aussie mistakes seemed to come as thick and fast as their tries did in the first half, resulting in South Africa taking the lead on the hour. The Faingaa sin bin followed, but with Australia down to 14 men they steeled themselves and retook the lead with a try from Drew Mitchell. Not to be outdone the Boks took the lead again with another Steyn penalty and the crowd were celebrating big time. What followed was a finish that seemed like fiction the Springboks were playing possession Rugby to run down the clock when they unbelievably conceded a penalty on the halfway line on their left wing. With Giteau off the pitch injured, everyone expected either O’Connor or Quade Cooper to take the kick, but Kurtley Beale was nominated and his kick sailed over and the whistle was blown for full time immediately afterwards. I must admit I enjoyed seeing the smiles wiped off the faces of the gloating Bok fans at the end, but it was a glorious game to watch, well two games and proved the fact that this is the game they play in heaven.
Too many Aussies played well to mention, but here’s a few who were ‘special’ Beale, O’Connor, Elsom, Pocock, Sharpe and Moore. At least 9 others deserve credit too.
The Wallabies now have to face the All Blacks again and try to break their 100% record in this year’s Tri-nations. They will have to play at their best for 80 minutes to do it.