Wallabies earn their place in rugby history
London, Sunday – Before and after Australia’s 12-6 final World Cup final victory over England yesterday, a four-line poem titled “The Spirit of the Wallabies” was recited by the Australian assistant coach Bob Templeton to the players in the Twickenham locker room.
When Templeton was asked to stand up after the win to read the poem – written a few years ago by Sydney coach Peter Fenton – several of the players admitted to having “foggy eyes.” They knew they were finally crusaders, knights, supermen. They were now a legendary tribe. They were world champions.
The names of these 15 warriors – Roebuck, Egerton, Little, Horan, Campese, Lynagh, Farr-Jones, Coker, Ofahengaue, Poidevin, McCall, Eales, McKenzie, Kearns and Daly – will never be forgotten, simply because they had provided Australians with rugby at its greatest moment.
And Australian sport has had few more emotional moments in recent times than when Wallaby captain Nick Farr-Jones lifted the William Webb Ellis Trophy above his head to show that at last Australia was the best in the world at a minor level sport. home behind the rugby league and Australian football.
The occasion aside, it was also the special spirit of this Australian team, by far the most popular team in the tournament, that made their World Cup conquest so memorable. Australian rugby has been proud of its membership in the running game for so long and all that is pleasing to the eye.
Yet it is in the area of defense, where Australians have been so vulnerable over the years, that they have ensured their success. Their racing game led them to the World Cup final; their defensive play has written their name in the history books.
To everyone’s surprise, England constantly attacked throwing the ball wide, as the All Blacks had done the week before in the semi-finals. But both failed because of the crushing steel of Australia’s defense. The Wallabies were the ultimate guards, showing as much defiance as an upset Twickenham keeper refusing to let anyone pass.
Australian players still boasted today that only three tries were scored against them in this tournament. In 480 minutes of football, tries were scored against them in the 28th, 68th and 312nd minutes. In the same period, Australia scored 17 tiles.
Yesterday, on so many occasions, England looked poised to break through after receiving so much good ball and extending play on several occasions.
But whenever England looked dangerous, an extraordinary tackle would come from an Australian player to ruin their momentum. Several tackles stand out, especially the magnificent cover job of second rower John Eales to come out of nowhere and plow Andrew in the second half. Andrew had looked like he was on the verge of scoring the try that could have given England a whiff of victory. Instead, the Englishman’s nose dug into the grass thanks to an exceptional tackle after Eales gave him a start of at least 10 meters.
Then there was the flawless defense of the other forwards and the impregnable wall that centers Tim Horan and Jason Little built that ultimately put England on the hunt for ideas. This resistance was so overwhelming that Australia were able to get away with pieces of possession and only needed one try to keep England at bay.
Yet it all revolved around the Australians taking their chances properly. The Wallabies rarely approached the England line, but when they did, they took advantage of the situation. The Wallabies’ only try, scored in the 26th minute, could not have been better, especially as England looked dangerous.
Horan’s great solo work saved Australia. He took a bomb near his own quarter line, before crossing the defense, sprinting 60 yards then kicking the ball into touch just before the corner flag. From that came a great two-handed grip in the middle of Willie Ofahengaue’s roster.
Forward rowers Ewen McKenzie and Tony Daly swept through Ofahengaue, triggering a rolling maul whirlwind, which ended with the two props diving together over the line, both holding the ball. Confusion over who to score continued for hours until Australian management revealed that Daly thought he scored, even though it was really two points for Daly and two for McKenzie.
It didn’t matter. The trial had the desired effect of giving Australia a buffer zone large enough to keep England at bay for the next 54 minutes.
After that, the only time the Australian defense relaxed was during the celebrations, when the Wallabies let anyone who wanted to congratulate the world champions pass.
Gold jerseys everywhere: Wallabies Tim Horan, left, Simon Poidevin, center, and David Cam’s pose combine to beat England’s Mike Teague by moving the free-play ball in the Cup final. Satuiday World in Twickenham.