1. Australia 35-39 New Zealand – first Bledisloe Cup Test, Sydney, 2000
They called this the greatest game of rugby ever played, the Test match of the century, in front of a world record rugby crowd of 109, 874. Wallabies supporters were eyeing the exits with the All Blacks scoring three tries to lead 24-0 at the 10-minute mark. To say it was a surreal experience – for both Wallabies and All Blacks fans – doesn’t do justice. But what happened next defied belief. Incredibly, the Wallabies rallied – thanks in no small part to the ghosting runs of Stephen Larkham – to level the scores 24-all at the break. Indeed, by this stage we knew we were bearing witness to something truly special. The second half delivered more of the same: an exhilarating mix of skill, passion and the Anzac spirit of neither side willing to yield in a try-fest resembling two pugilists going toe-to-toe, both landing haymakers and neither standing down. Fittingly, it came down to the one player who always seemed anything but human: Jonah Lomu. His score at the death clinched the game for the All Blacks by four points.
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2. New Zealand 43-6 Australia – first Bledisloe Cup Test, Wellington, 1996
As the scoreline suggests, this game was one-sided from the off. It’s included in the best of six because, to this day, there has never been a more complete wet-weather performance by any team, anywhere, than that which the All Blacks produced at Athletic Park in Wellington. The ball-handling by New Zealand was quite simply extraordinary. The Wallabies could only watch in awe as the 1996 vintage – a classic team in the eyes of many – ran amok in the rain and mud as if playing sevens rugby on a dry track. It was a sight to behold with legendary All Blacks Michael Jones, Christian Cullen, Justin Marshall, Zinzan Brooke, Jeff Wilson and Jonah Lomu scoring tries. Andrew Mehrtens kicked two conversions and three penalties. Two Matt Burke penalties were all Australia could muster.
3. Australia 29-26 New Zealand – second Bledisloe Cup Test, Sydney, 2001
A favourite with many fans, this was John Eales’s last match for the Wallabies. The game will forever be remembered for Wallabies No8 Totai Kefu’s “Inspector Gadget” move at the death, ensuring victory by three points for Australia. As farewells go, Eales couldn’t have asked for better. After the match, he supposedly told Kefu he’d buy him beers for the rest of his life. Some years later, Kefu claimed to be still waiting. Nonetheless, this match represented the perfect send-off for one of the all-time greats of the game, Eales. For that reason, it’s a sentimental favourite with many fans – and not just Wallabies supporters either.
4. Australia 16-6 New Zealand, Rugby World Cup semi-final, Dublin, 1991
David Campese’s finest moment for Australia. Indeed, Campese’s 1991 World Cup performances firmly established him as one of the greats of the game. For all his flaws, the world finally recognised that on his day Campese was quite simply a rugby genius without peer. Sadly for the All Blacks, that day just happened to come in a World Cup semi-final. His no-look pass for Tim Horan’s game-clinching try lives long in the memory. And Campese scored one himself, running an angled line to the corner without an All Black hand on him. Indeed, it seemed one of the days when even the All Blacks could only stand back and watch helplessly at the expression of genius that was unfolding before them. Australia, of course, went on to win the World Cup that year. And for that the Wallabies will always owe Campese.
5. Australia 20-16 New Zealand, Bledisloe Cup, Sydney, 1994
As trans-Tasman thrillers go, it’s hard to go past the Wallabies’ triumph in the one-off Bledisloe Cup Test at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1994. Down 17-6 at half-time, the All Blacks flipped the switch and ran amok after the break. The Wallabies were clinging on for dear life. All seemed lost when, with seconds remaining, Jeff Wilson jinked his way to the line. All but in, Wilson majestically dived to place the ball over the line for the match-winning try. Game, set, match it should have been … but for little Georgie Gregan who, out of nowhere it seemed, came flying in with a miracle tackle to knock the ball out of Wilson’s hands. There has never been a more dramatic ending to a Bledisloe Cup Test. Gregan’s tackle is the stuff of legend now, and rightly offered up as many fans’ favourite moment in Wallabies and All Blacks matches.
6. New Zealand 51-20 Australia, second Bledisloe Cup Test, Auckland, 2014
This was a vintage All Blacks beat down against a Ewen McKenzie-coached Wallabies side who drew 12-all with the New Zealanders the week before in Sydney. For the first time in a very long time the All Blacks looked vulnerable. And the Wallabies were bullish of a rare win at Eden Park. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The Wallabies were dismembered in a six-tries-to-two monstering. “Years from now Wallabies supporters will still be taunted by a Hannibal Lecter-like voice in their heads: ‘You still wake up sometimes, don’t you, wake up in the dark, and hear the screaming of the Wallabies?’” was how the Guardian saw it in the wash-up. “The All Blacks didn’t just answer the question of whether they were a great team in decline; they doused the exam paper in petrol, set it alight and then proceeded to flambé the Wallabies over 80 excruciatingly painful minutes.” It was an All Blacks win for the ages. So many questions asked of them, and all emphatically answered. For the Wallabies, maybe only a World Cup final win against the All Blacks will put to rest the demons of Eden Park 2014.