All Black feast at last supper

By Clem Thomas in Sydney
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The Independent Online
SPECULATION concerning the future of the game deflected much of the interest from this clash between fierce and ancient rivals yesterday. It is no wonder therefore that so many at Sydney Football Stadium misplaced the historical context of the occasion, seeing it not as the centenary of the Bledisloe Cup, but as the last supper of rugby union as we know it.

It all began solemnly with a minute's silence to mark the end of hostilities in the Pacific 50 years ago. This was followed by the "Last Post", which seemed to double up as a funeral blast for the end of the amateur game.

It was also to be a solemn and sobering moment for Australian rugby, whose demise after the glory of the early Nineties is now complete. They lost heavily, by five tries to two, largely due to the damage wrought by the extraordinary Jonah Lomu. They have now lost four of their last six Test matches and many were suggesting that this was thus the swansong of Bob Dwyer, their coach. He, however, denied this and said that he was putting himself up for re-election.

Lomu, who was clearly the man of the match, had a huge hand in three tries and scored another. There was however more to the win than that, for evidently the All Blacks had done their homework after last week, had tightened up their defence and improved their line-out. They simply went up another notch and we also saw some marvellous centre play from Frank Bunce and Walter Little.

Nevertheless there was little in it at half-time with Australia leading 13-12 largely because of a heavy penalty count of 13-4 in their favour. The match had, however, began predictably with an immense run by Lomu in the first 90 seconds which led to Bunce crossing for the first try.

Matthew Burke then tagged Australia back with a penalty but Lomu got away again on the halfway line to create a try for Andrew Mehrtens. Australia came back fiercely when Damian Smith came inside from the wing and went through five tackles to score a superb try.

Burke then kicked a penalty to make it 13-12 at the interval when David Campese, to the delight of his home crowd, replaced Smith. Campese's arrival, however, could not stop the All Blacks who took off after half-time. Frank Bunce scored a fine try, beating Burke and Jason Little, before Lomu charged through himself. A further All Black try by Jeff Wilson put such distance between the sides that a final try by Willie Ofahengaue came only as a consolation.

AUSTRALIA: M Burke (New South Wales); J Roff (Australian Capital Territory), J Little, T Horan, D Smith (all Queensland); S Bowen, S Merrick; M Hartill, P Kearns (capt), E McKenzie (all NSW), J Eales (Queensland), W Waugh (NSW), D Manu, W Ofahengaue, T Gavin(all NSW). Replacements: D Campese (NSW) for Smith, h-t.

NEW ZEALAND: G Osborne (North Harbour); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce, W Little (both North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); A Mehrtens, G Bachop (both Canterbury); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, R Brooke (all Auckland), I Jones (North Harbour), M Brewer (Canterbury), M Jones, Z Brooke (both Auckland). Replacements: J Kronfeld (Otago) for M Jones, h-t.

Referee: B Stirling (Ireland).