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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 12:53 GMT
All Blacks aura is shattered

By Jim Stokes
BBC Sport in Melbourne

So the All Blacks are human after all. With the type of Hwyl that has been absent in the Valleys for what seems an eternity, Wales culled a little bit of the hot-shot New Zealander's invincibility.

The cool Sydney evening was anticipating a slaying. It was as if everyone was trotting to the Coliseum to see the lions feed on the Christians.

Wales fans singing in Sydney
There is plenty for Wales fans to sing about right now
Well, the Christians may not have won, but they didn't half scare the mane off one of the kings of the rugby jungle.

In a remarkable game of ping-pong rugby at Sydney's Telstra Stadium, Wales shattered not only themselves but the myth surrounding the World Cup favourites.

When was the last time that the All Blacks had four tries run in against them?

Wales did lose 53-37 but gained new respect and won back the confidence that has been absent since the turmoil evolved in the domestic game.

Now is the time to take stock of what this team, blended with youth and experience, has achieved.

Okay, they lost. But it was the manner in which they eventually came second in Pool D to set up a quarter-final tie against England in Brisbane next Sunday.

It was not by magic potion but by sheer guts and no less flair and hard graft.

It was only when Welsh legs began to tire in the final 10 minutes that they fell by the wayside

Coach Steve Hansen's unstinting work is beginning to pay dividends as this tournament has shown.

Now it is up to the local game to sort itself out, stop the petty bickering and use this game as a platform for the future.

And what a game it was, the best of the World Cup so far. New Zealand, just like Australia the previous evening, knew they were in a game.

It was only when Welsh legs began to tire following unrelenting pressure from the All Blacks in the final 10 minutes that they fell by the wayside.

But what unrolled before 56,200 spectators was never expected.

A 12-try crackerjack of epic proportions that had everybody around the magnificent Olympic venue applauding both teams off at the end.

Charvis touches down against New Zealand
Wales skipper Colin Charvis was in inspirational form
In a rip-roaring first half, Wales were at first heading for yet another dismal note in their recent diary. Joe Rokocoko blasted in for a couple of early tries and things did look bleak at 28-10 after 30 minutes.

But instead of capitulating, Wales matched the All Blacks and then had the audacity to belligerently storm in front at 34-28 in the 46th minute.

Mark Taylor, Sonny Parker and inspirational skipper Colin Charvis had grabbed first-half tries then the elfin-like Shane Williams, who had earlier sparked the revival, grabbed the lead with try number four.

Wales had their heroes. Charvis, Williams and flanker Jonathan Thomas, who had an outstanding game, as did veteran hooker Robin McBryde.

It was all great stuff. But could Wales last? With a couple of ropey referee calls going against them, the All Blacks began to wear the men in red down, and that was that.

At the business end, the scoreline flattered the winners. In the end the result would have done Wales more good than New Zealand.

Now I wonder, can Wales up the ante again when they head up to Queensland next week? England will also wonder.

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