A 20th anniversary of some significance to New Zealand rugby passed relatively quietly on Thursday.

In some ways it's understandable if we would rather not mention it or even prefer to act as if it doesn't exist.

Given its French origin, it could be said to reflect on our national psyche in the same manner the Gauls went into denial about their mauling by Julius Caesar's Roman army at the Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, which proved the end of Celtic dominance in France.

Nonetheless on July 3, 1994, French captain Philippe Saint Andre would chase All Black first-five Stephen Bachop's deep clearing kick into France's 22m zone, then turn to look back up the Eden Park field at a 20-16 scoreboard against his team and a clock about to click over the 80-minute mark.


What transpired in the next 65 seconds is remembered as "the try from the end of the world".

A month before, there had been little to suggest Saint Andre's team would carve their names in test match history when they had departed for their 10-match tour of Canada and New Zealand, a belief reinforced when the Canadians beat them 18-16 while the "Saturday" squad and the "midweekers" dropped games to North Harbour and Hawke's Bay respectively.

But after the All Blacks had virtually disqualified their chances the week before during the first test in Christchurch with horrifically poor kicking choices, fittingly losing 22-8, Saint Andre knew as he set off only 17m out from his tryline that his men had just enough flair left to perform the impossible.

As he was so often prone to do, even without the intention, doyen commentator Keith Quinn provided the prelude to history - "Now, they have to chance their arm here, the tour record hanging in the balance".

While still under par, before this final dash the All Blacks had shown up for yet another Eden Park test series decider with signature resolve, dictating their terms for most of the contest.

But Saint Andre found the half gap through tired chasers, beating two dive tackles before giant lock Mark "Cowboy" Cooksley managed to wrangle him to the ground.

Cooksley's scragging tackle would be the only proper defensive response by an All Black during the entire movement.

Hooker Jean-Michel Gonzales immediately fired the pass to motoring first-five Christophe Deylaud, who looked out to see a lineup of blue jerseys with him, feeding No8 Abdelatif Benazzi.


Benazzi came to an 19-year-old Jonah Lomu, who 11 months later would change world rugby forever, but on this day was an inexperienced teenaged winger who simply could not understand what was happening. The towering loose forward eased past the overwhelmed Lomu and spread the ball to criminally underrated winger Emile Ntamak.

He cut back in-field to link with flanker Laurent Cabannes, who in turn drew three panicking New Zealanders to him before twisting back to find legendary centre Philippe Sella, the first man to play 100 tests.

Three different Frenchmen had run three different angles in the space of 15m, backed with perfect passes in a level of interplay you just did not see in that era.

Sella propped off both shoulders so brilliantly that the last All Black defender was actually sat on his haunches without touching him, Sella raising his arms in triumph after he sent his pass to halfback Guy Accoceberry.

There is no question Accoceberry would have held off his pursuers, but he selflessly made sure of five points by releasing the ball for fullback Jean-Luc Sadourny to dive over for what Quinn instantly declared as "one of the all-time great tries".

Winning 23-20, the 1994 French became the only team after the dominant 1937 South Africans and the combined might of the 1971 British Lions to beat the All Blacks in a domestic test series.

If their try was diamond-standard in its quality, a loving tribute to the unpredictable nature of Les Tricolores, then its importance has only grown in magnitude because of what has followed since at the headquarters of New Zealand rugby.

A month later on the same ground, the Springboks would hold the All Blacks to an 18-18 draw in a series dead rubber, and then in the 38 tests since, for two decades of trying, no other test team has beaten New Zealand at Eden Park.

It took a moment of perfection, to usher in an era of perfection.