Rugby: Defeats just a memory

By Steve Deane

Pair of rare fortress breaches bookend flanker's otherwise stellar career for NZ.

Mike Brewer says if your name creeps up in All Black losses the big black marker comes out. Photo / Getty Images
Mike Brewer says if your name creeps up in All Black losses the big black marker comes out. Photo / Getty Images

It was probably a good thing for Mike Brewer's rugby career that the defeats that link him to Eden Park's two remarkable All Blacks streaks happened far enough apart to escape much notice.

Brewer, the Pukekohe-born flanker who first made his name representing Otago, played 61 games -- including 32 tests -- for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1995.

His first match in the black jersey was as a member of the "Baby Blacks" side that famously defeated France in Christchurch when most of the country's senior players were serving a ban for participating in a rebel tour of South Africa.

Still banned when the All Blacks lost the opening 1986 Bledisloe Cup match to Australia 13-12 in Wellington, the rebel "Cavaliers" were rushed back en masse for the second test in Dunedin.

The entire forward pack was replaced, leaving Brewer on the outer. However, when Wayne "Buck" Shelford broke an arm in club rugby, Brewer was recalled for the final two tests.

An incorrect refereeing decision that denied Wallabies No8 Steve Tuynman a try allowed the All Blacks to escape with a 13-12 victory in the second test in Dunedin; however, they were totally outclassed 22-9 by the Wallabies in the decider at Eden Park.

Almost 28 years on, that match remains the last time the All Blacks suffered a defeat by Australia on Eden Park.

In 1994, when Brewer's stellar career was winding to a close, he took the field against a French team that would steal a test victory with one of the most famous tries in history. Jean Luc Sadourney's "Try from the End of the World" sealed a miracle 23-20 win that still stands as the last time the All Blacks lost on the hallowed turf of Eden Park to anyone.

"In all honesty I don't think too much about it," Brewer said of a link to the two historical defeats he shares only with Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. "The All Blacks play more tests at Eden Park than any other ground; that's why the numbers grow pretty quickly."

However, the fact that the notable defeats came eight years apart was undoubtedly a good thing.

"If your name creeps up in All Black losses then the big black Vivid marker comes out. That has been the case over the years."

Brewer managed to avoid eradication, retiring on his own terms after successfully claiming the Bledisloe Cup in a two-test series in 1995. That series victory went some way to healing the pain of a World Cup final defeat earlier in the year.

These days, Brewer operates a stock-feed business near Bombay and provides technical advice to Super Rugby champions the Waratahs. While he still favours the All Blacks to win on Saturday, he believes the Waratahs' success this season will help bolster the Wallabies' mindset as they attempt to break their Eden Park hoodoo.

- NZ Herald

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