RWC #20: Gregan taunts New Zealand: ‘Four more years boys, four more years’
All Blacks’ wait for second World Cup continues after 2003 semi-final loss to Australia
Australia players celebrate at full time of their 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand. Photograph: Getty
The 2003 World Cup progressed in such a way the final was always destined to be contested by the cream of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on one side of the quarter-final draw and Ireland, England, Wales and France on the other.
Inevitably this meant England would play France in one semi-final, while hosts Australia would play New Zealand in the other.
The 2003 semi-final was just the second meeting between the great Antipodean rivals in five World Cups. The first had come in the 1991 semi-final, when a David Campese-inspired Wallabies ran the All Blacks ragged at Lansdowne Road.
And by the time the two met in Sydney in 2003 it was Australia who had the richer World Cup pedigree with two wins to New Zealand’s one, something which seemed improbable when the All Blacks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time.
Ahead of the game Australia had been heavy under the pressure of trying to defend the trophy on home soil, while New Zealand had been playing scintillating rugby with the likes of Carlos Spencer and Joe Rokocoko thrilling the world.
But it was Spencer who first erred at the Telstra Stadium, throwing a miss pass out to the left which hung in the air for a fraction too long and allowed Stirling Mortlock to intercept, running nearly the length of the pitch to score.
Throughout, Eddie Jones’ side kept the ball in hand, even if it meant conceding territory (they had 66% of the ball in the first half), and thus were able to starve New Zealand’s deadly back three of Rokocoko, Mils Muliaina and Doug Howlett of the ball they craved.
With Leon MacDonald unable to find his kicking groove and Elton Flatley keeping the scoreboard ticking for the Wallabies, New Zealand were never able to force their way back into the match, losing 22-10.
New Zealand, the tournament’s most exciting attacking team, had lost a third semi-final in five World Cups.
On the final whistle Australia captain George Gregan twisted the knife. “Four more years boys. Four more years.”
New Zealand would be waiting another eight.