Chris Rattue: Kiwis still bewitched by Aussie magic (+photos)

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Australia were dressed for history in maroon and blue, but the rest of last night's centenary test match in Sydney was sadly familiar.

A brave Kiwi fightback managed to put a minimal touch of credibility into a match that was over by the end of the first quarter.

The game started so badly for the visitors that they looked in danger of scoring a duck at the Sydney Cricket Ground, while Australia appeared to have their sights on a century.

So for the Kiwi supporters, and those who keep hanging on to the hope that test football can provide epic contests, the blessing was that the humiliating, embarrassing drubbing in Wellington last year was not repeated.

But in terms of a gripping match, this wasn't much better. Dreadful goal line defence put the Kiwis out of the hunt quickly while Australia excelled in this area.

As expected, the Kiwis were outgunned in the halves, where they had to make do with late replacement Lance Hohaia.

You had to marvel at Australia's first try, a spectacular effort which epitomised the new breed of lanky super athlete that is filling the Aussie backline.

Greg Inglis soared over the dead ball line and flipped the ball back to Mark Gasnier - sheer magic.

Iosia Soliola's opening second half try for the Kiwis was also a test classic - but the Kiwis had little else to leave fond memories. There were other memories though.

It was announced just before the kickoff that the great Aussie club league coach Jack Gibson, who had battled dementia, had passed away that day.

Why should Gibson hold such a high place?

He virtually invented the modern game, with a canny mix of analysis and philosophy. He was a folksy genius.

Gibson scoured American sport for many tactical ideas. League would probably have travelled this road anyway, but Gibson expedited and shaped the journey during his reign in the 1970s and 80s.

He famously told the brilliant Aussie halfback Peter Sterling to kick towards the seagulls at the SCG, reasoning that where the birds were the opposing players weren't.

After the Parramatta Eels won their first premiership in 1981 after 34 years of trying, Gibson's entire winning speech from the stage was "Ding dong, the witch is dead".

The Australians are building another long winning stretch over the Kiwis.

Unfortunately the league test witch is alive and well - the Aussie backs have almost supernatural powers and their dominance is no myth.

- NZ Herald

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