Wallabies Rugby News

February 21, 2016
Adam Ashley-Cooper scores a

Pictures: When Wales beat the All Blacks in 1953

It's a question that grows louder in my head with every passing year. Will I get to see Wales beat New Zealand in my lifetime?

Since Bleddyn Williams’ team triumphed 13-8 in Cardiff in 1953, thanks to tries from Sid Judd and Ken Jones, Wales have lost 25 matches in a row against the All Blacks.

Working it out, I’ve been present at 13 of those defeats. Clearly, I am hardly a lucky charm!

In truth, luck hasn’t played too big a part in that losing sequence, although there have been a couple of near things along the way.

Looking back, the closest I’ve come to seeing Wales beat the Kiwis was my very first taste of the fixture back in 1978 when I was on the East Terrace at the old National Ground that infamous day Andy Haden dived out of a line-out just minutes from time.

New Zealand Andy Haden dive

If truth be told, I didn’t actually notice anything untoward. I was somewhat pre-occupied with avoiding getting crushed and keeping my feet dry, amid the rather unsavoury toiletry habits of the time.

But I do remember being gutted after the match, with Brian McKechnie’s late penalty having snatched a 13-12 victory for the tourists.

Yet, not for one minute did I think that more than 35 years later I would still be waiting to see Wales beat the Blacks.

In those intervening years, the high spots have been pretty few and far between.

There was, of course, that extraordinary match at the 2003 World Cup when I was transported into dream world at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium as Steve Hansen’s team threatened to pull off one of the biggest shocks in rugby history.

Gareth Thomas and Wales cam close to a major upset in 2003

Current All Blacks coach Hansen had picked a much-changed, inexperienced side, with Wales having already qualified for the quarter-finals and it did seem to be a case of lambs to the slaughter.

But they proceeded to turn the World Cup upside down, producing a scintillating brand of rugby to lead 34-28 midway through the second half, with Jonathan Thomas having the game of his life and Shane Williams rising from his sick bed to transform his career.

Gareth Thomas and Wales cam close to a major upset in 2003I vividly remember looking around the press box as Shane crossed for Wales’ fourth try under the Sydney night sky.

There was a mixture of delight and disbelief on the faces of my colleagues from back home, while reporters, pundits and former players from other countries were on their feet applauding.

It really was ‘pinch yourself’ time.

Welsh winger Shane Williams scores a try

More: Gwyn Jones predicts All Blacks will be too good for Wales

In the end, natural order was restored as Justin Marshall inspired a late surge which brought the Kiwis a 53-37 victory, but Welsh rugby had turned a corner and rediscovered itself.

As a result, there was a new confidence in the ranks a year later when a team, now under the tutelage of Mike Ruddock, welcomed a New Zealand side also under new management to the Millennium Stadium.

On reflection, this was the game that should have ended the barren spell.

It was certainly one of the best matches I have seen at the ground – and I have seen a fair few there.

Wales contributed a huge amount to the contest, with Colin Charvis and Dafydd Jones performing a pincer movement on Richie McCaw at the breakdown and Tom Shanklin and Mefin Davies touching down to secure a deserved 19-13 lead.

There’s always a danger or seeing things through rose-tinted spectacles when you look back, but my recollection of that match is Ruddock’s men were the better team on the day and, but for a few missed kicks at goal, would have ended the years of hurt.

I can still see the relief on the faces of new Kiwi coaches Graham Henry and Hansen on the final whistle after they had squeezed out a 26-25 victory against their former charges.

Tom Shanklin dives over in 2004

That’s the closest we’ve got in the professional era.

The only victory we’ve had in recent times was when we won the haka stand-off of 2008, which remains one of the most spine-tingling sporting moments I have experienced.

But tellingly, it was New Zealand who won the contest that really mattered, putting Warren Gatland’s Grand Slammers in their place 29-9.

And so it’s gone on, with the years of hurt now stretching to 61.

Pictures: The remarkable haka stand-off of 2008

More: The inside story on the haka stand-off

So, is there any reason to genuinely believe they will come to an end this Saturday?

Will I – and countless other Welsh fans – finally get to see us beat the All Blacks?

On paper – or, to be precise, on the bookies’ slip – the chances look pretty slim, with the Kiwis 7-1 on, which is about as one-sided as you can get in a two-horse race.

Tom Shanklin dives over in 2004 New Zealand players perform the Haka Ireland threw away a huge lead against New Zealand Wales' Samson Lee (centre) is tackled by Fiji's Manasa Saulo (left) and Sunia Koto
Source: www.walesonline.co.uk
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