Memorable moments: Triumphant last gasps

Alan Hewson at Eden Park in 1981.
Photo / Herald archives
Alan Hewson at Eden Park in 1981. Photo / Herald archives

Landsdowne Rd, Dublin, November 4, 1978
Graham Mourie's side - the first to achieve a Grand Slam - became known as the Houdini All Blacks because of their knack of pulling off the great escapes.

The first was against Ireland where in the final minutes a 6-all draw seemed likely, derailing slam hopes at the first hurdle.

That was until the All Blacks won a lineout near the Irish line, halfback Mark Donaldson scurried around the short side and when tackled, lobbed the ball inside to hooker Andy Dalton who had just made the throw in.

With Irish defenders all over him, the Counties man was able to avoid the touch line and dot down in the corner.

There was an accidental element to the try. The plan was to shift the ball along the backs for the final assault on the line. But a lineout bounced in front of Donaldson who was forced to change tactics and sped around the front of the lineout before his perfectly timed pass as he was bundled into touch.

Dalton recalls the try well as "there weren't many".

"I think Mark Donaldson was passing to Brad Johnston but I grabbed it. Hitting the Irish defence was like hitting a brick wall."

When he got up, he was covered in white chalk from being pushed over the sideline after scoring the try.

"It was probably fortunate that the ref (Clive Norling) was so well positioned to see I'd scored it."

Although fullback Clive Currie missed the conversion, the 10-6 win set the All Blacks on their way to the Grand Slam.

Dalton believes that had the All Blacks not been beaten by Munster in the preceding mid-week game, they would not have been prepared for the Irish challenge and could have lost the test. With the Grand Slam on track, the All Blacks had a big night.

A week later against Wales, they needed a late penalty and came perilously close to conceding a draw against Scotland. Instead Ian McGeechan's attempted drop goal was charged down and, in the gloom of Murrayfield, midfield backs Bill Osborne and Bruce Robertson hoofed the ball down the other end of the park for Robertson to seal the Grand Slam.

Eden Park, September 12, 1981
Allan Hewson was positive he could nail the kick to win the third test in the tumultuous 1981 series.

"It was a kick of 35-odd metres. I was sharing the kicks with Doug Rollerson on the day but it was on my side and I was keen to take the kick," Hewson recalls.

"I knew it had to go over and I was in a positive frame of mind when it came to taking it and I think that helped."

There was a split second when it looked as if it was going to miss but it swung back into the middle of the posts and it went over.

The Wellington fullback threw both arms in the air when the kick went over.

"It was more a relief than anything - it was a strange kind of day."

Referee Clive Norling awarded the penalty nine minutes into injury time when the scores were locked at 22-all.

"He (Norling) was the sole judge of time - thank goodness he was."

In the lead-up to his big moment, Hewson saw halfback Mark Donaldson had caught the Springboks offside after taking a quick tap from a free kick conceded at a scrum. "They didn't think it was a penalty but we took it with open arms."

The park was being strafed by a light plane, the match was marred by numerous stoppages including All Black prop Gary Knight being felled by a flour bomb - accounting for the extended injury time,

Hewson said the outside backs felt particularly vulnerable. "We could see it coming - it was quite disconcerting.

"It was a bizarre sort of day and a bizarre sort of tour.

"As we all know hindsight's a fine thing and it should never have taken place but that's the way it is."

Even after Hewson's famous kick there were two minutes to play but the All Blacks hung on.

'We came out on top which was great for New Zealand rugby. We couldn't really afford to lose."

Jade Stadium, July 24, 2004
Leading by three points well into injury time, the Springboks looked like ending their record losing streak against New Zealand having led from the start.

But nine seconds from the end, winger Doug Howlett handed the All Blacks a last-gasp 23-21 win in the gripping Tri-Nations test.

Howlett crossed for New Zealand after a series of rucks created an overlap in the final act of the game, a cut-out pass from Carlos Spencer finding fullback Mils Muliaina who flicked it on to Howlett to score.

Had Howlett not scored, the All Blacks would probably have had an option to draw the game with a penalty kick for goal.

Australian referee Andrew Cole signalled advantage to New Zealand for an offside infraction against Springboks second five-eighth De Wet Barry handy to the goalposts. His team trailing 18-21, captain Tana Umaga would have been left with a major dilemma: ask first five-eighth Spencer to kick for his team's seventh penalty goal and level the scores or push for a try which would win the test.

After the game, Umaga steered clear of what his hypothetical decision would have been.

"You'll have to wait until I get that chance," was Umaga's response when asked what he would have done.

Six minutes earlier, with the scoreline the same, Umaga told Spencer to kick for touch when his team were awarded a penalty. However, that was from 40m out and just 5m in from the touchline.

The All Blacks coaches were happy with that decision, screaming out for him to do the same, All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said.

Smith would have backed Umaga's call either way had the dilemma arose in the final minute.

Memorable moments:
Brian McKechnie saves the day
When Fitzy's Incomparables cracked code
Triumphant last gasps
Playing through the pain
Shock loss put NZ side in their place
Famous Kiwis share their greatest All Black moments

- NZ Herald

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