Wallabies’ victory one for true believers
Saturday night's record Bledisloe Cup hammering of New Zealand was a night for Australian rugby's true believers.
After years of watching the Wallabies fumble their way through loss after loss, and tear themselves apart off the field, finally they are back playing the sort of rugby that can and will win the big games.
The 47-26 romp over the All Blacks comes with an asterisk because New Zealand played the second-half a man down after Scott Barrett was sent off for the lightest of all shoulder charges.
That's the sobering reminder about the challenges that lie ahead if the Wallabies are to win back the Bledisloe Cup with victory in Auckland next week, or regain the World Cup in Japan later this year.
Both Michael Cheika and Michael Hooper admitted as much in the aftermath of the stunning win at Optus Stadium.
"There's a strong rugby community out there that love the Wallabies," Cheika said. "We want to give them some hope too, for the season ahead but also to understand that we're building."
The Wallabies were already on top when Barrett was sent off for a shoulder charge but Cheika said he had some sympathy for the All Black lock.
"A few things went our way," Cheika said. "I like to play the game tough, so it's disappointing for me when someone gets sent off … but the referees are following the rules.
"But in the bigger scheme of things, our guys played OK, but there's still a lot of building to do. That's what we want to do this season is build one thing on top of another.
"We're trying to work out how we can work around obstacles in games and we'll get more of those next week."
Hooper was also keeping a lid on the celebrations, even though the Wallabies posted the highest score by any team against the All Blacks as well as equalling the biggest winning margin over the two-time world champions.
"It's a good confidence hit and a good vindication for what we've been doing," he said.
"We didn't buy too much into the records, but what we will buy into is how we kept pushing as the game went on. There's still a heap to work on but we're building."
But for long-suffering Wallaby fans, the win is enough cause for celebration because it shows the Wallabies are genuine contenders to win the World Cup.
The All Blacks may still yet win the trophy but they've lost the total dominance they once had so it's now a wide open tournament with up to eight teams in the mix.
The Wallabies are just one of them but momentum is on their side with two more games left before they head to Japan.
The most pleasing aspect about Saturday night's romp was the return to Wallaby rugby - as evidenced by the five tries - plus seeing the smugness wiped off the New Zealanders.
The red card was harsh but after 17 years of Bledisloe Cup hidings, not even the All Blacks could begrudge Australia one of their finest moments in years.
"Australia played particularly well and deserved the win, they were the best side on the day," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said.
"The red card didn't help us but we didn't help ourselves either. Our discipline was poor in the first half, we missed 20 tackles out of 90 in the first half so we didn't get ourselves off to a good start
"I'm extremely proud of the way we hung in there. If you're going to get a red card, the worse one you want to get one against is a side that wants to play footy and Australian wanted to play footy.
"They wanted to play fast and in the end they found some small space than we could cover so all credit to them.
"I know the scoreboard's' fairly massive, with 47 points, it's not that often we get that many points scored against us, but at 16-12 we're in the game at halftime then Scotty gets sent off and it's a different game."
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