| Australian players celebrate after winning the first rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Australia won 22-10. (Reuters)
Sydney, Nov. 15 (AFP): Australia powered into their third World Cup final here Saturday with a stunning upset 22-10 victory over favourites New Zealand at the Olympic Park Stadium.
A try from centre Stirling Mortlock and 17 points from the boot of Elton Flatley handed the 1999 defending champions a famous victory against an All Blacks side repeatedly rocked backwards by ferocious Australian tackling.
The win puts Australia into a final next Saturday — becoming the first defending champions to reach the next final — against either England or France, who play their semi-final here Sunday.
New Zealand, whose points came from a converted captain Reuben Thorne try, now face a third place play-off Thursday.
It was another nightmare result for New Zealand, who have been branded the ‘chokers’ of international rugby after successive flops in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups that they had been favoured to win.
Aussie captain George Gregan said it was a wonderful achievement as the Australians triumphed over the All Blacks for the second time in a semi-final having beaten them in 1991 on their way to seeing off England in the final.
“New Zealand have been the world’s best team this year, so it was a great effort,” said Gregan, who had been heavily criticised during the tournament.
“It has given us the opportunity to play for the ultimate prize and that’s next week, so we don’t want to get too carried away. The way it is these days against top teams, you have got to make them work defensively.
“Although it didn’t pay off initially, it paid off later in the game (when) they started to tire.” A shellshocked Thorne — one of the few survivors from the 1999 catastrophe — said the Wallabies heroic defence had been the source of their downfall.R oared on by a World Cup record crowd of 82,444, the Australians led from start to finish.