Rugby Union: Lomu confirms unique stature

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Rugby Union

Australia 23 New Zealand 34

Jonah Lomu, the giant All Black winger, was hailed as one of the great attacking players in the history of the game after his rampaging performance in the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday.

Lomu demolished Australia's resistance with a series of devastating runs which earned fulsome tribute from Bob Dwyer, the Australia coach. After only one full season of international rugby, Dwyer rated Lomu as the best attacking player he had ever seen.

Asked whether he had witnessed such a potent attacking force before, Dwyer said: "I don't think there has been anyone like him in the game before."

Phil Kearns, the Australia captain, described Lomu as the difference between the two sides. "If we did not tackle him he attracted two or three defenders and then slipped the ball to a team-mate. Jonah was the big difference in the match," he said.

Laurie Mains, the New Zealand coach, said it was his team's best performance this season. "Over the 80 minutes, it was probably a better performance than the one we gave in beating England in the World Cup semi-final," he said.

Lomu, the undisputed man of the match, scored one try and proved virtually unstoppable in attack in a performance that left the near-capacity crowd of 39,327 at the Sydney Football Stadium in awe.

An outstanding try in the 62nd minute typified Lomu's performance, and the All Blacks' successful tactics.

Receiving a cut-out pass from Andrew Mehrtens just outside the 25-metre line, Lomu almost nonchalantly brushed past the tackles of the winger David Campese and the centre Jason Little on the outside to score near the posts.

It was a tactic the All Blacks used with success throughout the match, as Australia's defenders struggled time and again to contain the towering winger. "We wanted to give him the ball as early as possible, and he was clearly in the mood to do the business today," Mains said.

Frank Bunce, the centre, took full advantage of Lomu's explosive breaks by scoring a try in each half as New Zealand recovered from a 13-12 deficit at half-time to overwhelm Australia, despite a penalty count of 25-12 in the home side's favour.

Lomu's partner on the wing, Jeff Wilson, and Andrew Mehrtens also crossed the line to the delight of a large contingent of New Zealand supporters in the stadium. Mehrtens contributed a further nine points with his boot, converting three of his side's tries and landing one penalty.

Sean Fitzpatrick, the New Zealand captain, paid full tribute to his players before lifting the Bledisloe Cup. He told the crowd: "I am absolutely thrilled and ecstatic by the way we performed as a team today."

Australia, who lost to new Zealand 28-16 in Auckland last week, responded with tries from the winger Damian Smith and the flanker Willie Ofahengaue.

Smith bruised his liver in crossing the line and was replaced in the second half by the veteran Campese, who was dropped for the first Test.

Matthew Burke, the Australia full-back, produced an accurate kicking performance to score 13 points with three penalties and two conversions.

Australia: Tries Smith, Ofahengaue; Conversions Burke 2; Penalties Burke 3. New Zealand: Tries Bunce 2, Mehrtens, Lomu, Wilson; Conversions Mehrtens 3; Penalty Mehrtens.

AUSTRALIA: M Burke (New South Wales); D Smith, J Little, T Horan (all Queensland), J Roff (Australian Capital Territory); S Bowen, S Merrick; M Hartill, P Kearns (capt), E McKenzie, W Waugh (all New South Wales), J Eales (Queensland), W Ofahengaue, T Gavin, D Manu (all New South Wales). Replacement: D Campese (New South Wales) 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); O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), C Dowd (all Auckland), I Jones (North Harbour), R Brooke (Auckland), M Brewer (Canterbury), Z Brooke, M Jones (both Auckland). Replacement: J Kronfeld (Otago) for Jones h-t.

Referee: B Stirling (Ireland).

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