The Tri Nations was in itself an event which transcended sport, as it brought three nations together in a year without precedent due to the impact of COVID-19. New Zealand, Argentina and hosts Australia competed on the field, with the title race going down to the wire.

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While all three teams were competitive, it was the All Blacks who ultimately claimed the crown.

The men in black got their Tri Nations campaign off to a fantastic start in Sydney, recording a 38-point win over the Wallabies. But back-to-back losses so nearly ended their hopes of winning the competition until other results went their way.

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Even though the All Blacks have the trophy tucked away, both the Wallabies and Pumas had famous wins which need to be celebrated in their own right. Here are the two significant upset wins from the Tri Nations, and my view on what made them special.

 

Resilient Wallabies beat All Blacks in Brisbane

Across the first three Bledisloe Cup fixtures, the All Blacks simply went from strength to strength each week. They survived a shock in Wellington, managing to leave with a draw, before claiming a win the week after at Eden Park.

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In the first test between the Trans-Tasman rivals in Australia though, the All Blacks were very impressive, which resulted in a record 38-point win. The victory also saw the men in black hold onto the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year.

With the odds very much against them going into Bledisloe IV, the Wallabies had one last chance to avoid a clean sweep.

Utility Reece Hodge was named to start at flyhalf while Tom Wright was also a notable inclusion on the wing. It only took a couple of minutes for the two to help hand the advantage to the hosts. After Hodge put a kick through, Tom Banks collected the ball on the bounce before passing it to Wright who scored with his first touch on debut.

While the All Blacks managed to respond soon after through Rieko Ioane, the Wallabies regained their lead in the 22nd minute (8-5). But just a minute later, the match took a dramatic turn when All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi accidentally hit Wright high with a tackle attempt – and was shown a red card soon after.

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But 12-minutes later, after the visitors had drawn level, Lachlan Swinton became the first debutant in Wallabies history to be shown a red card on debut. Winger Marika Koroibete was also shown a yellow card just before the break, seeing the Wallabies go down to 13-men.

But the Wallabies didn’t panic, they even managed to take the lead through a Hodge penalty just before their star winger returned to the park.

After conceding a try, another Reece Hodge penalty saw the Wallabies trail 14-15 with just over 20-minutes to play.

But there was to be one more card in this test match which gave the Wallabies all the momentum, with All Blacks lock Scott Barrett shown a yellow card for a cynical foul. Less than 90 seconds of gameplay later, Hodge converted a penalty from close range to give his side a two-point lead.

A try to powerful prop Taniela Tupou with just over five and a half minutes to play was the icing on the cake for the Wallabies, who led by as much as nine before All Black Tupou Vaa’i scored just before full-time.

With time up on the clock, then 20-year-old Noah Lolesio (turned 21 on the 18th of December) kicked the ball into the stands to cement a famous win. The Suncorp crowd were sent into a frenzy; the cheer that was let out by Australian fans at full-time was incredibly loud and proud – and was also a great recognition of the resilience of the players who’d overcome plenty of doubt to record the famous win.

Full-time: Australia 24 – New Zealand 22

 

Pumas’ first-ever win over All Blacks

Los Pumas made incredible sacrifices to even be in Australia, but their commitment to the sport and their desire to represent their country was there for all to see. Incredible videos emerged of Pumas players training while in lockdown and quarantine, that showed both the restrictions that they faced, but also the innovative spirit and commitment to compete.

Once they got out of quarantine in Sydney, they faced a Rugby Australia XV twice and won on both occasions. But their biggest test would be their match against the All Blacks, a team they had never beaten, culminating with the fact that they’d also not played an international match for more than 400 days.

Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez was the standout performer from the match, scoring all of his sides 25-points. He opened his account with a penalty from halfway early on, before scoring what turned out to be the Pumas’ only try of the match 19-mintues in.

Playing with a penalty advantage, the Argentinian pivot opted for a kick and chase. He managed to retrieve the kick and score under the posts.

The underdogs were also boosted by the defensive performance of Marcos Kremer, who made a monstrous 26 tackles.

Incredibly the Argentinians made 156 tackles in the game.

The flyhalf simply took his chances with the boot, with his side leading 16-3 at half-time. One penalty extended their lead to 16, before All Blacks captain Sam Cane crossed in the 53rd minute.

With only a few minutes left on the clock, and with the Pumas leading by 12, Sanchez stepped up and converted a long-range penalty to make it a three-score game.

The match was well and truly over at this point.

A Caleb Clarke try after the siren was mere consolation for the All Blacks, who had been outplayed for a majority of the test match.

The scenes after the match were unbelievable as well, with the Argentinian fans, coaching staff and players rightfully celebrating this historic feat. Not only was this their first-ever win over the All Blacks, but considering the sacrifices, this was truly a special moment for the team and the country.

Sanchez earned justifiable praise after his performance, which was nearly identical to a unique piece of Argentinian rugby history. Pumas legend Hugo Porta scored 21-points in a draw with the All Blacks in 1985, all of his side’s points, much like Sanchez at Bankwest Stadium.

For the All Blacks, the loss also brought with it more unwanted history as they recorded not only their first-ever loss to the Pumas, but also back-to-back losses for the first time since 2011.

Full-time: New Zealand 15 – Argentina 25

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