With the All Blacks clash against Australia in Japan in the not too distant future, Christopher Reive looks back on the 2011 clash that proved to be a turning point in the great rivalry.
What was it?
The semifinal of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, seven years ago yesterday, played between the All Backs and Wallabies at Auckland's Eden Park. The Wallabies were fresh off winning the Tri-Nations earlier in the year, and the All Blacks were suffering through a number of injuries in their first five-eighth ranks.
The All Blacks hadn't made the World Cup final since 1995, falling in the semifinals in 1999 and 2003, and the quarterfinals in 2007. The Wallabies had made two of the last three Rugby World Cup finals, and were looking to end a 12-match drought at Eden Park, with their last win at the venue coming in 1986.
The All Blacks were without their two top choices at No 10, with Daniel Carter and Colin Slade both succumbing to injury. With just seven test caps to his name, young Aaron Cruden was given a run in the playmaker's jersey.
Who was involved?
The All Blacks had a strong squad running out onto the pitch including Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richard Kahui and Piri Weepu, with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Stephen Donald and Ali Williams on the bench. The Wallabies had a formidable squad of their own, featuring Stephen Moore, Radike Samo, Quade Cooper and James Horwill.
It was a dream start for the All Blacks with midfielder Ma'a Nonu getting across the chalk inside the opening 10 minutes. It was the only try of the game – a stat that would be remarkable in today's game. The majority of the damage was done from the boot, with Piri Weepu slotting four of his seven penalty attempts, and Aaron Cruden knocking a drop goal over. The Australians were drew close to the All Blacks in the first half to trail 11-6 at halftime, but three penalties from the boot of Weepu were the only points of the second half, lifting the All Blacks to a 20-6 victory.
What happened next?
After overcoming their past hiccups in the knockout stages, the All Blacks went on the secure their second World Cup title with a 8-7 win over France in the final. The match saw Steven Donald, who was not named in the All Blacks' initial World Cup squad, become a cult hero after slotting what would be the match-winning penalty goal in the 46th minute.
It was a turning point for the New Zealand side. Since claiming that World Cup title, the All Blacks have lost just seven of 91 matches and claimed back-to-back titles at the 2015 tournament. In 20 matches against Australia since the 2011 World Cup, the Kiwi side has won 16, drawn two and lost two.
Herald match report – 17 October 2011
By Dylan Cleaver
No excuses, we were beaten by a better side. That was the message coming from the Wallabies camp last night as they digested their first loss to the All Blacks at a Rugby World Cup.
Beaten at the tackle area, beaten at scrum time and beaten in the air, captain James Horwill summed up the feelings of his side when he said: "We were beaten fair and square by a better side tonight."
From the looks on Horwill and Deans' faces, it looked as if they had suffered a 40-point thumping, rather than 14. They went in with a plan to take on the All Blacks in the air, but a superb performance in the back field, particularly by Cory Jane, forced a rethink.
"The aerial work of the All Blacks was very good. We changed our approach after halftime, but we just weren't able to generate enough momentum.
"They inhibited our attack, not only in terms of the way they attacked the ball on the ground, but because they were successful, as the game went on our guys started to become a bit apprehensive," said Horwill.
With territory statistics falling in New Zealand's favour 62 to 38 per cent, Australia were forced to launch attacks from deep.
In Digby Ioane they had the game's most dangerous broken-field runner, but they seemed to have few other coherent ideas. Kurtley Beale was clearly missed.
Quade Cooper, the pantomime villain, made a mess of the first half but slowly found his feet in the second. On balance he wasn't awful, but he and Will Genia never provided the rapier thrust in close.
That was in part because New Zealand dominated the breakdown. Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino and Richie McCaw, for the first time in this tournament, played like the best loose-forward trio in the world.
Genia was forced to use either slow ball, or ball on the back foot.
Australia's vaunted backs were unable to strut their considerable stuff.
"[The All Blacks] defended very well," said Deans. "To score was important to us, particularly just prior to halftime, but they denied us that.
"They made it difficult all night for us to create any momentum."
Deans and Horwill were gracious in their praise of the All Blacks and the former Crusaders coach said he could sense a hardness in the team that would help them against the French.
"They're well-versed, they're hungry and they've got a lot of support ... so they'll take some stopping."
He also suspected it would not be the last time he locked horns with Graham Henry. "I doubt it's the last we'll see of him, he'll just be in a different guise. Good luck to New Zealand for the final."