Fans all over the world, beyond the borders of Australasia, have always been enchanted by the magic of New Zealand playing Australia in the Bledisloe Cup: a yearly series of matches that sees the two best attacking teams in the world come face-to-face.
The fluidity in passing, the grace and dexterity of some of the world’s finest players, the peripheral awareness and the almost telepathic understanding between individuals right across the pitch (like something reminiscent of John Wyndham’s ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’) have often put the rest of the rugby-playing globe to shame.
It is a trophy that has had a fascinating past and a history often dominated by the All Blacks. In the 84 years that the two nations have competed for the silverware, Australia have held 12 titles compared to New Zealand’s 43. Even so, that disparity masks some of the truly astounding achievements of the men in green and gold.
We’ll now take you through some of the most intriguing, fascinating and shocking scores, figures and statistics from the history of the Bledisloe Cup.
Cricket scores and an abundance of tries
History shows that the biggest winning margin is 37, when New Zealand thwarted Australia 43 – 6 from 6th July 1996. However, racking up the numbers is not a recent phenomenon. New Zealand beat Australia by 35 points back in 1972 when they were victorious 38 – 3 in Auckland. More recently, New Zealand’s 51 – 20 win over Australia in Auckland in 2014 is the third biggest margin, but also the most points scored by one side in the Bledisloe Cup.
In fact, New Zealand have won the top thirteen games with the biggest winning margins. Australia’s biggest margin of victory over New Zealand is 21, when they won 28 – 7 in Sydney in 1999.
Despite the Kiwis’ dominance at times, Bledisloe Cup games have often been known for their unpredictability. In August 1998 the All Blacks were 11 – 0 in Sydney, but went on to lose 19 – 14 in the second half. In 1988 in Brisbane Australia were 16 – 6 up after 40 minutes, but drew 19 – 19 with New Zealand at the conclusion of the match.
However, Australia have always played in a particular way and their steadfast belief in attacking rugby is embodied in them having scored the most tries in defeat on four different occasions. When losing 35 – 39 on 15 July 2000, the Wallabies scored 5 tries. They also scored four when losing 36 – 24 in Dunedin in 1997 and 34 – 24 in Auckland in 2005.
Yet it is New Zealand who control the overall try scoring count. Their 38 – 13 win in 1936 saw 9 tries scored by the All Blacks, and additionally they achieved 7 tries in 1946, 1958, 2003 and 2010.
New Zealand’s best winning streak in the Bledisloe Cup extends to 10 matches from 2 August 2008 to 11 September 2010. In contrast, Australia’s best run is just three matches between 9th September 1978 and 21st June 1980.
Nippers and rippers
Australia and New Zealand are both known for nurturing and developing young players, but it is the Wallabies who are the masters of providing opportunities for youngsters. The eleven youngest players in the Bledisloe Cup were all Australian. In fact only five All Blacks appear in the top thirty.
The youngest ever Bledisloe Cup player was Brian Ford, who at 18 years and 90 days started on the wing as Australia went down 9 – 22 to New Zealand in Brisbane on 1st June 1957. James O’Connor came off the bench as a replacement for Berrick Barnes aged 19 years and 13 days in Auckland in 2009 to make him the eighth youngest Bledisloe Cup player. As for the youngest Kiwi, it was Pat Walsh aged 19 years and 106 days in Wellington in 1955.
If we turn our attentions to winning percentages, suddenly everything is ‘blackwashed’ once more, with Ben Franks leading the way having won 87.5% of his Bledisloe Cup matches. In fact, the top 36 best winning percentages belong to New Zealanders, with Aussie Matt Cockbain having the best percentage for his country at 70%.
As for tries, Greg Cornelsen scored the most in an individual match. He got four scores for the Wallabies back in 1978 when Australia defeated the Kiwis 16 – 30 in Auckland. If you’re not familiar with Cornelsen you might be interested to know that he wasn’t a winger or a centre but a number eight. Not a bad day at the office, eh?
Finally, this writer imagines there are a few New Zealand fans reading this and getting somewhat apoplectic that Mr McCaw has not been mentioned yet. Most wins? Richie (35). Most tries? Richie (11). Most consecutive wins? Richie (11). The guy has more records than Guinness and High Fidelity’s Rob Gordon rolled into one.
There you have it, just a small selection of stats, facts and records from the wonder that is the Bledisloe Cup. How many will be broken this year? Regardless, the matches will still feature some of the best rugby you’re likely to see all season.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Read More About: All Blacks, auckland, Australia, Ben Franks, berrick barnes, bledisloe cup, brian ford, brisbane, down under, Dunedin, greg cornelsen, james o'connor, matt cockbain, melbourne, new zealand, pat walsh, richie mccaw, rugby championship, sydney, Top Story, Wallabies