10 THE WALLABIES 2000 AND 2001
There was heartbreak in New Zealand in 2000 when John Eales kicked a last-minute penalty to beat the All Blacks in the first game played in the new stadium in Wellington.
It was a crushing blow for New Zealand because the All Blacks had the game in the bag, until they botched a lineout with 60 seconds left and then conspired to lose.
A year later they were on the verge of making amends in Sydney, but again, with a minute to go they conceded a soft try when Wallabies No 8 Toutai Kefu stormed through four tackles to crash over and clinch things.
Those back-to-back losses were hard to take. All Blacks coach Wayne Smith looked broken after the game and said, “We should have won tonight. There’s a fine line between these teams but under pressure they’re certainly a little bit better than us.”
Such was the emotion felt after that defeat in 2001, Smith decided to stand down. He was no longer sure if he was the right man to coach the All Blacks so his job was opened to tender.
He actually reapplied in the end but lost out to John Mitchell and New Zealand made the incredible decision to ditch one of its most astute, emotionally intelligent, progressive coaches.
It was a poor and costly move, but in a strange way paved the way for Smith to return three years later as an assistant All Blacks coach – a role that seemed to suit him more and allowed him to become the enormous influence he was right through to this year.
HEARTBREAK HOTEL The Wallabies became experts at breaking New Zealand hearts at the start of the millennium.