GREG GROWDEN - Sydney Morning Herald
OPINION: World Cup success. It all revolves around timing. And less than a year out from the tournament, the Wallabies could not have picked a better moment to have the world's best team suddenly doubt themselves.
Their spectacular after-the-bell triumph at Hong Kong Stadium is bound to have the desired effect of getting into the minds of the All Blacks players and supporters that, for the sixth straight time in the lead-up to a World Cup, they may have peaked early.
There is no longer an aura of invincibility about the All Blacks, and so the Wallabies' campaign to win their third title now has substance.
Sure, the All Blacks are still the No.1 team in the world, and they can use the excuse that key playmaker, Daniel Carter, wasn't on the field in the critical final minutes, but the Wallabies at last know they have their measure.
That's crucial. For so long, they believed. Now they know. That will do wonders for their confidence. They know they can win the tight ones. The many youngsters, which are the core of the Wallabies side, have shown they can handle the pressure moments.
First Kurtley Beale in Bloemfontein, and now James O'Connor, have stepped up to the plate, and when required, produced.
They know they possess the fast, unpredictable and highly innovative game that can put away the All Blacks again. They know if they push their skills to the limits, they will be rewarded. It is an exciting time, because if they keep playing with such panache, all of Australia will embrace them.
Adding to the edge is that they know what is infuriating the All Blacks the most is that they don't have the chance to regain that psychological advantage for nine months, which is the next time they will play the Wallabies for the Bledisloe Cup.
Adding to the moment was some unusual, but heart-warming after-match emotion. All Blacks players are renowned for being dim, dark characters. They abhor losing. But their mighty second rower Brad Thorn, a close friend of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, showed a human side.
Thorn had, over the past 26 months when the All Blacks relentlessly belted the Wallabies, observed Deans getting gloomier and gloomier. The 10 trans-Tasman test winning streak had ended, and Thorn was pleased that Deans's perseverance in a youth policy had at last been rewarded.