When the Wallabies head to Eden Park, they’ll face one of Australian sport’s great ordeals. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
I’ve thumbed through the Bledisloe Cup regulations nine times now and there is no mention of a tie breaker.
There is nothing to say that if the All Blacks beat Australia at Eden Park next Saturday the two-match series will be decided on tries scored, metres gained, phases completed or total respective sheep populations.
Australia’s failure to insert a clause similar to the one that deprived the Kiwis of the cricket World Cup now seems regrettable given they haven’t beaten the All Blacks in Auckland since the Ronald Reagan administration.
Although, let’s face it, not even the most one-eyed, optimistic, leather-arm-patched Wallabies tragic turned on Saturday night’s game thinking we would need some ridiculously arbitrary ICC-style decider to settle this year’s series.
The Wallabies will need to win a Test at Eden Park for the first time since 1986 to win back the Bledisloe Cup. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
OK, yes, Alan Jones did give the Wallabies a sniff in his regular column for The Australian on Friday on the basis — surprise, surprise — Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was finally doing what Jones claimed he would have done.
Otherwise, never mind the All Blacks had looked vulnerable against South Africa or that the Wallabies were on the respectable side of decent against Argentina.
In prospect, suggesting the Wallabies would win handsomely in Perth was like predicting a return to the wicketkeeper would bounce off a bat and go to the boundary for a five during the Super Over in a World Cup cricket final.
Yet win the Wallabies did. So marvellously that, for once, instead of trying to identify the weekly Wallaby whipping boy, it took some time to fully praise all the heroes of the hour.
Although as much as we will remember James O’Connor’s trendsetting early pass to set up the first try or Michael Hooper’s indefatigable defence, the wonderful thing about the Miracle of Perth was that, for a precious moment, it allowed Rugby Australia to pack up all its troubles on the red-eye flight and smile.
Israel Folau? For 80 enervating minutes the troublesome fullback was no longer either the victim of religious persecution or a curse on the game — depending on which Twitter stream you followed.
The Wallabies’ win helped Australian rugby forget about its off-field issues. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
He was just some guy back in Sydney with a Bible, a team of very well-paid lawyers and a strange obsession about the post-life destination of idolaters.
Of course there could be no Australian victory over the Kiwis without an outbreak of righteous indignation from our siblings across the ditch.
I mean, you can’t even bowl an underarm delivery in accordance with the current regulations to win a one day international without the Kiwis crying into their chilly bins.
This time it was lock Scott Barrett’s red card in the 40th minute for a shoulder charge that had All Blacks fans claiming referee Jerome Garces had perpetrated the greatest French conspiracy since the Rainbow Warrior.
Although the infamous boat-sinking by French intelligence agents merely curtailed protests about nuclear testing in the Pacific. Garces’ decision had much greater international ramifications for Kiwis — it helped sully the reputation of their beloved All Blacks.
At least that was the complaint of the New Zealanders as the Wallabies turned their 16-12 half-time lead into a record-breaking 47-26 romp in the absence of the banished Barrett.
Although — and you might have trouble winning this argument with your cousin Bevan in Christchurch — so well did the Wallabies play during the first 40 minutes of 15-per-side it was possible to envisage a victory even without a numerical advantage.
Despite the euphoric post-victory scenes, the most anxious rugby fans remained fearful the All Blacks had run dead; that their eyes were on the much bigger prize at the World Cup and they were easy pickings.
Believe that and you will also believe the Kiwis won’t be waiting for the Wallabies with baseball bats at Eden Park next Saturday, eager to make the punishment they have inflicted over the past two decades seem like mother’s mercy.
To believe the All Blacks will remain “vulnerable” you will have to assume they will not be scolded by the reviews in the Kiwi press that described New Zealand’s team as “embarrassing”, “inept” and on the receiving end of “a psychological stuffing of savage proportions”.
Or you will not have considered the morose post-game expression of the now under pressure All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who did not look like a man about to organise a tea party for the Wallabies upon their arrival in Auckland.
Or you will have forgotten that the last time Australia won a Test match at Eden Park in September, 1986, the Russians were still calling the recent explosion at Chernobyl a “slight malfunction”.
Or perhaps you have suffered so badly from Australia’s recent attempts to break the Bledisloe hoodoo in the All Blacks’ fearsome fortress — a 51-20 drubbing in 2014 and a 41-13 humiliation the following year — that you still suffer sharp spasms when you see Auckland on a map.
But the now-fearsome reception that awaits the Australians only makes a game that was supposed to have been the Saturday evening aperitif before play started at Lord’s now seem the most appetising of main courses.
Play with the kind of confidence, energy and freedom they displayed last Saturday night and the Wallabies will not just give themselves a chance to win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 17 years.
They will have survived one of sport’s great ordeals.