1. New Zealand 39, Australia 35 – Stadium Australia, Sydney July 15, 2000
The best test I’ve had the privilege to cover. Easily. This incredibly fluctuating affair, later dubbed The Game From Heaven, had it all, including a world-record crowd of 109,874. The All Blacks led 21-0 after a scintillating three-try opening five minutes, and 24-0 soon after. I recall colleague Phil Gifford leaning over and declaring: “I can guarantee this All Blacks team won’t lose a lead like this.” By halftime it was 24-24 as the Wallabies struck back with four tries. The pace was incredible, and I remember feeling breathless at the break just taking it all in. When the Aussies went ahead 35-34 six minutes out, Gifford’s words hovered hauntingly. But then Taine Randell’s basketball pass put Jonah Lomu on a memorable run to the corner for the 10th, and final, try of a brilliant night. Heaven sent.
2. New Zealand 43 Australia 6 – Athletic Park, July 6, 1996
As we shuffled into grim old Athletic Park, a classic All Black performance was the furthest thing from our minds on a wet and wild afternoon in the capital. But on a historic sort of day – it was the first Tri-Nations match, the first time bonus points had been used and it was the first rugby match the TAB took betting on – John Hart’s men obliged in sublime fashion. As the rain fell and the surface got slipperier, the All Blacks unleashed a near perfect display of skill, speed and power. They ran in six tries in all and some of the handling almost defied belief on a day when the Australians looked like they were playing on a skating rink. It was a magical performance from a side that would be all but unbeatable for two superb seasons.
3. New Zealand 23, Australia 22 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney, September 11, 2010
We can’t feature the best of the Bledisloes without showcasing a signature performance from the greatest All Black of all, and a man who has been a constant in a remarkable 12-year period of New Zealand dominance. It was the test where Richie McCaw surpassed Sean Fitzpatrick’s record tenure as national skipper, and he obliged with one of his most dogged displays to help his men dig out of a 19-6 second-half hole. McCaw crossed for a crucial – and contentious – try in the 68th minute, then made the call to go for the killer blow late, and was there applying the shoulder to the wheel as Kieran Read powered over for the game winner. It was a match the off-key All Blacks should have lost, but their skipper simply refused to allow them to as they completed the first sweep of the expanded Tri-Nations.
A cracking match, thrilling finish and a Wallabies victory at a time when they were specialising in them against the All Blacks … that was test rugby’s debut at Wellington’s new waterfront stadium. Just weeks after being pipped at the post in Sydney, this resilient Australian outfit responded by retaining the Bledisloe Cup for another year. Australian skipper John Eales was the hero, the big lock calmly stepping up to slot a match-winning penalty in injury time that wrote him into folklore. The Aussies led 12-0 early, but the All Blacks hit back to be in front 20-18 at halftime. A tight second half played out, the All Blacks got the lineout wobbles and Jonathan Kaplan made the contentious call late when he whistled up a ruck penalty to give Eales one of his finest moments.
5. Australia 20 New Zealand 16 – Sydney Football Stadium, August 17, 1994
This match undoubtedly reignited the Bledisloe rivalry just prior to the launch of the professional era. It was the only test Laurie Mains’ All Blacks played that year, and when they trailed 17-6 at halftime it looked set to be an ignominious one. But the New Zealanders flicked a switch at halftime, unleashed the expansive game that would soon become their forte and all but pulled off a sensational comeback victory. Of course the defining moment came late when a young George Gregan pulled off “the tackle” to deny an equally young Jeff Wilson what looked a certain match-winning try. Wilson would later joke that he had launched Gregan’s career with his misfire, but would also admit it was a moment he had to work very hard to shake off. It’s fair to say both went on to bigger and better things from that evening at the SFS – a rare Wednesday night test.