Almanac Rugby Union – Australia v France Second Test: AAMI Park, Australia’s graveyard


Test rugby has been a welcome sight in Melbourne for decades. The Wallabies have enjoyed a lot of success in the nation’s sporting capital. Docklands, in particular, has been a home away from home, with the only real blip being an insipid Bledisloe performance almost a decade ago.


When we finally got a purpose built rectangular stadium, it was hoped that the cauldron-like atmosphere better suited to rugby would spur our lads in gold to great heights. On the contrary, it has been a graveyard.


Like cricket, rugby has tiers to distinguish the nations battling it out for supremacy as opposed to the also rans who slog it out for recognition and a few crumbs off the table of the governing body. Australia is a Tier One team vying with the other three Rugby Championship teams and the Six Nations for glory and accolades.


Over the past five years, we have played three Tier One nations at AAMI Park. With the loss to France last night, we are yet to get a scalp on that turf. The first loss to the English was brutal. We were completely outplayed. The last time the Wallabies ran onto the pitch three years ago, they took it up to the Irish for long stretches but came up short. Last night had a very similar feel to that game.


The French made five changes to their starting lineup from the First Test. That last minute capitulation seemingly emboldened them to try a fresh approach last night.


From the outset, a couple of things were apparent. The French XV gelled better than the Wallabies as they dictated the pace of the game and started dominating at the breakdown. Rhythm is so important in the early stages of a Test match. The French were Aznavour to our Rodney Rude – suaveness taking on chaos.


The first try came in the 21st minute when Penaud barged over. Koroibete looked to have the perfect response soon after but it was disallowed due to a knock-on detected at the start of the move to get him there. Little did we know that would be a sign of what was to come.


Jake Gordon’s sneaky try just before half time narrowed the deficit to just three points as both teams headed for the sheds. Despite the obvious flaws in the Wallabies game plan, it genuinely seemed the AAMI Park hoodoo was about to break.


In the run home, only one more try would be scored. Our inspirational skipper, Michael Hooper, was rewarded for his best on ground performance with a five-pointer in the 70th minute.


But we were still behind. Les Bleus had been surgical in turning territory into points with the sharp shooting of Jaminet pinging penalties whenever the inevitable Wallabies ill-discipline got called out.


A successful penalty in the 74th minute put the Wallabies in front for the first time. Could they hang on? You sensed the trepidation in the crowd about whether they could. The Gallic gang just across from me in the Southern Stand certainly believed their boys would come back.


And indeed it came to pass. Yet another ruck infringement in the 77th minute was swooped on and the visitors were in front 28 – 26.


There wasn’t to be any post-siren calamity this time round. No siree, Bob. They ran down the clock like consummate professionals and nabbed a historic win. For the first time since 1990, the tric0lour flew proudly over an Aussie Test venue.


Good on ’em. They deserved the win. For the Wallabies, the never-ending questions about discipline, set plays and breakdown effort continue. For me, it was another night at that bloody ground watching us get touched up by European interlopers.


Will I go next time we get a big team in town? Absolutely. Test rugby is a grand stage. If all the world is a stage, then I’ll cross the footlights at AAMI Park again and hope next time it’s more Gilbert and Sullivan rather than Beckett.



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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.

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