Australia have won the Tri-Nations after a ten-year wait thanks to a 25-20 success over New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday.
Australia have won the Tri-Nations after a ten-year wait thanks to a 25-20 win over New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
This is what Test rugby is all about!
The Wallabies outscored their visitors by three tries to two in what was a delicious hors d'oeuvre before the start of the Rugby World Cup.
A first-half blitz from the hosts saw Robbie Deans' troops send the shell-shocked All Blacks into the half-time sheds 17 points behind (20-3).
However, just like clockwork, New Zealand bounced back after the break to level the scores and set up a thrilling finish to a pulsating Tri-Nations decider.
But just as it seemed the visitors were going to seize the game by the scruff of the neck, a piece of brilliance by Australia's scrum-half Will Genia created the decisive try for Kurtley Beale.
It was a fast and furious start to the match that saw the Wallabies in fifth gear straight from the kick-off, only for the hosts to slam on the brakes after two mistimed passes from halfback partners Genia and Quade Cooper denied wing Digby Ioane ten points in the bank.
Instead, the hosts had to settle for a three-point lead following a straight-forward penalty from Cooper that put his team in front after four minutes played.
The Wallabies' lead was nearly stretched soon afterwards when centre Adam Ashley-Cooper weaved his way over the All Blacks' tryline, but was held up thanks to some sterling defensive work from scrum-half Piri Weepu and full-back Mils Muliaina.
The pace and physicallity of the game took its toll on the All Blacks' loose trio, who all required some attention before number eight Kieran Read called it a day and limped off the pitch as Adam Thomson recieved some heavy strapping to his left elbow.
The Wallabies then rubbed salt into the visitors' early wounds with the game's opening try after Genia sliced his way through a gap and dived over beside the posts. Cooper added the extras and Australia had a handy 10-0 lead after 15 minutes played.
All Blacks pivot Dan Carter finally got the visitors on the board with his trusty boot mid-way through the half after the Wallabies defence was caught offside, but the Australians were still in control and Cooper replied with his second successful penalty of the match.
From the restart, two of Australia's veterans in the form of Dan Vickerman and number eight Radike Samo worked together to lift the capacity crowd off their feet.
Vickerman took his big frame into contact before putting Samo through a gap that the 35-year-old exploited to perfection – first handing off Thomson, then racing 50 metres to the tryline for a sensational try with two All Blacks hanging on his back.
Cooper slammed over the conversion from bang in front and Australia went into half-time with their tails up, leading 20-3. But any happy thoughts that Wallaby fans had of a runaway win by their team, were cast into doubt by this year's World Cup hosts in the second half.
Dominating possession from the restart, Ii was clear that New Zealand had set out their stall during the interval to extinguish the Wallaby flare that had burned so brightly in the opening 40 minutes.
First Carter added three more points with a penalty on 47 minutes, before the All Black magician drew the home side's defence and unleashed centre Conrad Smith for their opening try.
Carter's conversion took the scores to 20-11, but they weren't done there and seven minutes later the All Blacks went in for their second after Ma'a Nonu ran in to put his team right back in the frame.
With Carter's second conversion added to the mix, it was game on at 20-20!
However, Australia hit back in the best way possible.
Just like he did for the Reds in this year's Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at the same ground, Genia wrong-footed the opposition again and made good ground before delivering the offload to Ioane.
The Wallaby wing drew in the defence and then unselfishly fed Beale who ran in unopposed for the try to put the hosts back in front, but Cooper missed the conversion, leaving the scores on 25-20.
Six minutes from full-time Cooper missed what looked like a simple chance to give his side an eight-point advantage when he sent a penalty wide of the uprights.
But Australia held on through a nail-biting finish to claim the Tri-Nations crown for the first time in a decade.
Man of the match: Tough one! We could go for a Wallabies team award, but it was decided that Radike Samo, the oldest Wallaby player at 35, deserves it the most after showing everyone who witnessed his try that there's still plenty of life left in those old legs.
Moment of the match: Beale's match-winning try in the left corner to retrieve Australia's lead. It had class written all over it.
Villain of the match: Hmmm… maybe see our comments section below. We're pretty sure you'll find a few candidates in there somewhere!
Tries: Genia, Samo, Beale
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper 2
For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith, Nonu
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 2
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Rob Horne.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Isaia Toeava.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
By Dave Morris