Almanac Rugby – Bledisloe 1: ‘Rennie-sance’




Somethings never change and the prospect of Bledisloe rugby ignited dormant passions last week across the ditch along with the cognoscenti on this side of the Tasman. In the days leading up to Sunday’s showdown there was a lot of press on the future of Super Rugby, the manouevres by the South Africans and, most notably, the new look Wallabies under latest coach, Dave Rennie.


As so often is the case in sport reporting there was far too much focus on the machinations rather than the emotional significance of the return of this storied rivalry. For a rugby tragic like me, the grind of lockdown could only be leavened by something grand and magisterial. I was stumping for an epic. We got one.


The backdrop couldn’t have been scripted any better. Windy Wellington was heaving with strong gusts, an almost capacity crowd and an anxious homecoming for Rennie. After playing a lot of his rugby in the nation’s capital and getting his coaching start there, he was returning as the man in charge of the enemy troops. He had pulled quite a few selection surprises with two debutantes in key positions in the back-line, Paisami and Daugunu. He also had a baby faced flanker, Harry Wilson, as the key line-out man. Brave man, that Rennie!


His gamble proved inspired with all three of them playing significant roles at key moments in the game. Paisami and Daugunu hit the lines hard and made impressive yardage to set up some key phases of play while Wilson’s work rate around the breakdown was exemplary. Adding in the solid play-making of the halves combination of White and O’Connor and the way our pack held its own, it was a performance to warm the hearts of all Wallabies fans.


The All Blacks at home is the Everest of world rugby. The Wallabies haven’t won there since 2001. However, with a new coach and captain it was felt their invincibility may be broached. Whilst there was one or two selection surprises, it was a far more settled AB XV that took the field on Sunday afternoon.


The Wallabies got off to a flier by dominating territory and possession early. Many passages of play were impressive but mistakes started creeping in and it wasn’t long before the hosts crossed the line after a fumble by the men in gold. There should have been a second 5-pointer on halftime but the ball was not grounded correctly so the game was still in the balance at the interval at 8-3.


Line-out problems and some scrappy work at the breakdown continued into the second half but the Wallabies were looking more dangerous as the game went on, despite a setback with Aaron Smith’s try just a few minutes into the half. The last quarter fade-out was fortunately nowhere to be seen as a brilliant back-line move put Koroibete over in the 53rd minute followed by another from Daugunu in the 63rd.


When O’Connor converted a penalty in the 74th minute, the Aussies were in front for the first time and an historic win was within reach. Inevitably, that dream was snubbed out when Barrett squared the ledger with a minute to go.


Then the magic came. On full time the Wallabies were in possession in the middle of the ground. They scrapped their way through multiple phases hoping for a whistle. A penalty just the defensive side of half way, but relatively central, seemed to set the stage for Reece Hodge to be the hero and be immortalised alongside John Eales’ touchline conversion to retain the Bledsiloe at the same venue almost two decades ago.


Hodge struck it sweetly. It was sailing through but the gusty conditions were always going to have the last say. It veered right, struck the upright and bounced back into the field of play. Game on. For a total of eight overtime minutes these two gallant teams traipsed up and down the pitch hoping for any score to send one set of fans into rapture. It wasn’t to be, but we had just witnessed a spectacle that will be etched into folklore.


We hadn’t beaten our arch enemy but effectively that was the outcome. Going into the game we needed to win 3 of 4 tests to regain that coveted silverware. If we had won, it would be another 2 from 3. That is still the equation that faces us.


I professed my relief on Twitter at a “Rennie-sance” and I can’t wait for the next episode of the Medicis against the Borgias in Auckland on Sunday.



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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. Great piece Brian,

    It really was an epic. I was expecting so little – from the Test and from the Wallabies and thought it might be one of those matches where the underdog’s enthusiasm keeps them in itfor the first 20 orso and then the powerhouse burst clear.

    How wrong I was. It became riveting in the second half. The quality was so good that I almost forgot the wind. And, as for the final couple of minutes, which led to the extra eight minutes, that was sporting drama at it’s finest. I also thought the ref was instrumental in that extra time- he adjudicated with a full understanding of the moment. I don’t blame the Aussies for ending it, they had been forces all the way to their line and were about to cave.It was an extraordinary physical effort. Determination and will personified.

    If I were coaching kids, I’d show that eight minutes as a prime example of the game – and the essence of the game.

  2. Wow ruminator, I’ve been out of action until a sudden reawakening this weekend, but had to check out this one with the catchy title haha!

    Rennie-sance Medicis Borgias ….. great stuff!
    How I long for the quality of this game to have been reproduced at BankWest last Sat night……sigh

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