There we were, six points ahead with 20 minutes to go. The Welsh had thrown the kitchen sink at us but hadn’t broken our line.
It had come down to a contest of the boot between Bernard Foley, who seems to have the goal posts on some kind of freaky GPS, and the epically twitchy Dan Biggar, who makes Jonny Wilkinson look composed.
And then we were two men down, with yellow cards shown first to Will Genia and minutes later to Dean Mumm.
When Genia went off, a Welsh try seemed likely. When Mumm followed, those odds firmed to something approaching a dead set cert.
“Any country would have backed themselves to go over,” said Wales captain Sam Warburton.
But they didn’t go over. What unfolded was so folkloric, Paul Kelly will probably write a song about it. George Miller will direct the movie and Russell Crowe will shave his head to play Wallabies captain Stephen Moore.Embed from Getty Images
A rugby nation long regarded for its attacking flair decided to unveil its previously unheralded defensive chops.
Last week, it was our scrum that surprised. This weekend, it was our impenetrability. We’re meeting a new Wallabies outfit this tournament.
Somehow, we repelled wave after wave of red shirts desperate to usher the ball across the line. A converted try and Wales would take the lead late in the game. Here’s what we said to that idea.
“Just keep getting off the ground, keeping making tackles and turning up for each other,” was how Moore explained the team’s resilience under siege. “Nothing too complicated, just work hard for each other.”
Or, as coach Michael Cheika put it: “Just tackle your heart out.” Simple really.
With each tackle, Twitter filled with more comments about the Aussies’ ticker. It was so compelling to watch I wanted to see how we’d go with another three men in the sin bin.
The statisticians were in their element. Those of us who’d heeded the 2.45am alarm were congratulating ourselves on our genius in getting out of bed in the dead of night.
And then somehow, when the lads were no doubt dead on their feet, they found the energy to mount an attack of their own. They may well have crossed the line if Israel Folau hadn’t tripped over his own boot.
When Genia came back on and we were still one man down, it felt like we had an advantage.
Finally, the siren went. We were 15-6 victors. A blandish scoreline but we all knew we’d witnessed something special. It wasn’t a do-or-die encounter — we were through to the quarter-finals, no matter what — yet our lads had played like their lives depended on it.
For the second weekend running, the royals were not amused. The good luck charm that constituted their 2012 Olympics appearances has failed to materialise at the Rugby World Cup.Embed from Getty Images
So we have dodged the side of the knockout draw with South Africa and the All Blacks. Next weekend, we have the opportunity to complete the trifecta of Britain’s broken World Cup dreams when we take on Scotland at Twickenham.
It’s a ground that hasn’t been kind to us over the years. But after the last two weeks, we can basically claim a home ground advantage.
On Wednesday, I’ll do my health check. I’m hoping I can present my viewership of a rugby game in lieu of the treadmill section. I already know my heart’s in excellent shape.