Walking along the Southgate waterfront in Melbourne heading for the Irish pub to watch the semi-final clash with Jess all kitted up in her All-Blacks jumper and me in the gold Wallabies jersey, I may have jinxed the Australians by saying that the Rugby World Cup is gearing as a 1987 replay.
The same teams, the same location.
Last Friday night I was at the same venue watching as the French overcame an emotion-charged Welsh outfit that had their leader sitting on the sidelines after being sent off for a dangerous tackle – a tackle that in my opinion only warranted several minutes in the sin bin, not the rest of the match.
Fast forward 24 hours and there we were with a beautifully positioned bar table right in front of the big screen. With a cold pint of Guinness in hand and a AUS-NZ crowd standing around waiting for the kick-off, the scene was set.
Quade Cooper walked to the line, picked up the Gilbert world cup ball and kicked to his left – out on the full. For someone in such a form slump, there couldn’t have been a worse of a way to start a crucial battle.
You could sense something in the air when the All-Blacks faced off against the Wallabies to perform the Haka. With a home crowd behind them, Weepu sounded off and the Kiwis put on an inspirational show to the six thousand plus in the stands and millions more glued to the box around the globe.
There was no stare down this time. They completed the Haka and then simply turned and went to their places with determination in their eyes and the look of we will not let this one slip away on their faces.
If the Haka wasn’t enough to bear my statement, the first ten minutes should’ve been. New Zealand put on an amazing opening passage which resembled a powerful locomotive moving at full steam ahead. The Australians had nothing, their response nil. They were stunned, confident less and repeatedly making error after error.
There was no Lawrence-like refereeing performance in the match. Last weekend against the Springboks, David Pocock was the hero and man of the match – mainly due to his ability to play the referee. Against the All-Blacks, he would be the villain for the exact same reasons as the preceding game. He had several mates who would join him.
New Zealand was dominant in their 20-6 triumph. Ma’a Nonu crossed the line early, Piri Weepu converted four penalties however he missed several other attempts including the conversion points for the try, and Aaron Cruden put through a drop goal. The Wallabies score card read a James O’Connor penalty and a Quade Cooper drop goal. They just didn’t get close.
The All-Blacks shut out the Australians in every way possible and now only one hurdle remains for the hosts.
In 1987 the might of New Zealand rallied behind their warriors at the same place which this Sunday’s final will be played, Eden Park, and against the same nation, France. The All-blacks thrashed the French 29-9 and in doing so would be crowned the inaugural Rugby World Cup champions.
In that game France paid greatly for their impressive effort against the Australians a week earlier. Could this years edition of the Rugby World Cup be more alike? France will need to recharge their batteries after a tough and poignant performance last weekend but that big question mark will still be lingering as they walk onto the park – did they play their final a week early?
The final will be played on Sunday 23 October 2011. On the Friday before, Australia tackles Wales in the playoff for third-position. The same weekend line-up as ’87.