James O’Connor’s converted try at the death in Hong Kong not only ended New Zealand’s run of 10 consecutive victories over Australia but also slashed the difference between the two sides in the IRB World Rankings by nearly four points.
The 20-year-old held his nerve to kick the conversion from near the touchline to snatch a 26-24 victory in the final Bledisloe Cup match of 2010 in Hong Kong, sparking wild celebrations from the Australians who had not beaten the All Blacks since 2008.
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New Zealand had sat 9.21 rating points clear of Australia at the top of the IRB World Rankings and a victory by more than 15 points would have taken them beyond the previous biggest margin of 9.41 rating points which they held over France on 25 June 2007.
However, Australia’s win means this cushion has been slashed to 5.37 rating points as the two rivals head to Europe for four internationals over the next month. It also stretches the Wallabies’ advantage over third ranked South Africa to just over two points.
The other side from Oceania in action over the weekend were Samoa, who had to brave wet and windy conditions as a result of Typhoon Chaba to beat Japan 13-10 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
Japan had led 10-0 at half time, but a Samoan side featuring six debutants gradually fought back with Kahn Fotuali’i’s try 11 minutes from time sealing the victory and a one-place rise to 11th – at Italy’s expense – in the IRB World Rankings. Japan remain 13th despite the loss.
Peru on the rise
The biggest movers of the week, though, were unquestionably Peru with a 14-place elevation to 64th on the back of victories over the higher ranked Colombia and Venezuela in the South American B Championship in Medellin.
Peru beat Venezuela 13-5 on Monday and followed that up with a 21-7 victory over their hosts Colombia – at the time ranked 25 places above them – two days later, before beating Costa Rica 61-5 to be crowned champions of the second tier in South America.
Colombia’s loss to Peru and a tight 28-26 defeat to Venezuela on Saturday means they are the week’s biggest fallers, sliding 12 places to 65th to leave them the lower ranked of the three nations. Venezuela actually climb two places to 58th, the win over Colombia negating any fall as a result of the Peru loss.
Costa Rica, the other side in the South American B Championship are not yet a Full Member Union of the International Rugby Board and therefore not ranked, meaning none of the matches involving them were eligible for the IRB World Rankings.
Two place gains in Europe
Three matches in the European Nations Cup 2012 also had an impact on the latest rankings with Croatia and Israel both enjoying two-place climbs after overcoming Latvia 14-12 and Hungary 23-14 respectively on Saturday.
Croatia’s win away from home in Division 2A sees them rise to 44th and claim back two of the four places they lost on the back of defeat to Sweden seven days earlier, condemning Latvia to a four-place drop to 62nd in the process.
Israel, meanwhile, have now climbed above Hungary after delighting their home fans in Netanya with victory. The Israelis now sit 72nd, one place above their Division 2C opponents who have slipped six places as a result of the defeat.
Lithuania edged a tight affair with Malta 9-6 in their first Division 2A match, a victory which has not improved their standing of 39th but has halved the gap between them and Poland above. Malta, though, fall two places below Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe as a result.
The three fixtures in Division 3 also took place over the last week with Bosnia & Herzegovina beating Slovakia 45-21 and Azerbaijan 38-17 at home in Zenica. However, with only Bosnia & Herzegovina a Full Member Union of the IRB, the matches do not count towards the rankings.
The same is true of the CAR Development Trophy involving Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya in Cairo. Algeria beaten Libya and the hosts 50-0 to claim the title, with Mauritania taking third following a 10-5 win over Libya on Friday.