Bledisloe battles 'all about passion'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 November, 2008, 12:00am

Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock has been involved in his fair share of Bledisloe battles over the years, and as far as he was concerned, this one was no different. For many on-lookers, however, there was something missing.

The stage was set for an epic clash when the singing of the national anthems and the haka had the packed stands in raptures.

But what followed was an encounter that, apart from a few passages of real intensity, never really got the pulses racing. At least that was how it looked from the stands - as far as Mortlock was concerned, it was a very different scenario on the pitch.

'Don't think for a second that there was any lack of passion out there today,' Mortlock said. 'It was no different than any other Bledisloe Cup clash I've played. It was tough as ever.

'We both badly wanted to win and it was a hard-fought game. Neither team wanted to lose this match, believe me.' It was hard to argue with a man who has been in his fair share of rugby wars with New Zealand, but although the All Blacks No. 8 Rodney So'oialo may have ended the match with his head bandaged and blood seeping from the wound, it was generally a sluggish affair.

After a torpid first half, the intensity stepped up a few notches after the interval, but there just seemed something lacking.

It would be only natural that both sides had an eye on the challenges that lie ahead over the coming weeks as both go on their respective European tours.

Mortlock, however, also made the point the conditions may have played a part in how the game was played.

'The humidity was a problem at first and it was a bit slippery underfoot at times, but it was a brilliant occasion,' he said.

To the neutrals at least, it was a game that never really got out of second gear. With the Bledisloe Cup already in New Zealand's safe keeping, it seemed to take the edge out of the confrontation. Seeing All Blacks captain Richie McCaw being presented with the Cup for the second time at the end of yesterday's match did not spark the sort of celebrations in the New Zealand camp as it did when the side clinched the series in their previous encounter in Brisbane six weeks ago.

As a spectacle, though, it was nothing less than a resounding success and an occasion that sports fans in Hong Kong will be hoping they'll see much more of.

'The atmosphere here was amazing. It really has been a great experience for everyone in the squad,' Mortlock said.

'It's my first time in Hong Kong and I've loved every minute of it. Having a Bledisloe Cup game played here is historic and it helps to promote the game abroad.

'It's great to be able to play in Hong Kong and still get the support of so many Australians. It would have been even better if we'd got the win, but I think it proved that it was well worth playing the match here.'