Rugby Union: Spencer sparks black day for the Wallabies

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The Independent Online
Australia 18 New Zealand 33

The suggestion by the Australia coach, Greg Smith, that the Wallabies are "not far away" from matching the all-conquering All Blacks flies not so much in the face of logic as bludgeons it brutally about the body.

Saturday's convincing win by New Zealand to claim the Bledisloe Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was their sixth consecutive win over the old enemy from across the Tasmin Sea and more than revealed the gulf between the two sides.

Smith's view from the Wallabies bench was somewhat different, however. "I do not think we are that far away from them and we will work hard to try to reverse the result in Dunedin on 16 August," he said.

Presented with that statement, the All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, could only hide his amusement and it was left to the New Zealand coach, John Hart, to respond.

"They [Australia] picked a very good side," Hart said. "The only reason the Australians were kept in the game was the penalty count [20-10], but I'm not whingeing. Other than the penalties, we were decisive in every area."

Decisive indeed. The Springboks - or any of the northern hemisphere sides - watching the game may have felt a shudder right through to their studs when Hart, by way of a menacing coda, added: "I think we are still growing. We have these veterans, but other players who are playing extremely well have a lot better to come."

It would take little deduction to work out that among those he was referring to was the precocious stand-off Carlos Spencer. The 21-year-old's perfect success rate of seven goalkicks from seven attempts was a hammer blow to the Australians. Other young Turks were the 22-year-old full-back Christian Cullen, who scored the last of New Zealand's three tries, and the 23-year- old man of the match, the flanker Taine Randall.

The Wallabies' misery was compounded by the loss of Tim Horan, who will be out of the game for up to eight weeks after breaking his thumb at the MCG. Australia face South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday, where they will also be without the full-back Matt Burke, who has a recurring groin injury.

Horan's replacement is likely to be the 20-year-old debutant, Elton Flatley. Smith is expected to overlook David Knox, currently in South Africa, for the No 10 shirt, a decision that Hart for one believes is foolhardy. "If I was the Australian coach I would feel very sad that David Knox is sitting in Natal," he said.

Australia: Tries Gregan; Little. Conversion Burke. Penalties Burke 2.

New Zealand: Tries Bunce; Wilson; Cullen. Conversions Spencer 3. Penalties Spencer 4.

AUSTRALIA: M Burke (S Payne, 77); J Roff, J Holbeck, J Little, B Tune; T Horan (S Larkham, 40), G Gregan; A Heath, M Foley, R Harry; J Eales (capt), G Morgan; M Brial (T Coker, 33), B Robinson (D Wilson, 61), D Manu.

NEW ZEALAND: C Cullen; J Wilson (A Cashmore, 40), F Bunce, A Ieremia, G Osborne; C Spencer, J Marshall; O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), C Dowd; R Brooke, I Jones, Z Brooke, J Kronfeld, T Randell.

Referee: E Morrison (England).