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“I was hoping we weren’t going to use it,” former Country and Wallaby flanker Greg Cornelsen said. “Jesus, I was petrified.”
The year was 1975 and the annual Sydney-Country match was at his combative best at TG Milner field in Eastwood.
The classic grudge-match – which will be resurrected on Saturday at Rat Park when Sydney Rays and NSW Country Eagles meet in the NRC – looked to be a city slicker win but the bushies won a penalty near full-time.
Legendary Country (and later Wallabies) coach Daryl Halbrecht screamed from the sideline for his new “Tap 5” move, or as it would come to be known, ball-up-the-jumper.
Having only tried “a few times” at training, Cornelson wasn’t overly keen. His was the designated orange jumper under which the ball would disappear.
“I thought the ball could get caught up in my jumper and I’d get rucked to death or something,” Cornelson recalled this week.
“Anyway, we formed a horseshoe and I was near the middle. John Hipwell tapped the ball and joined in the middle, and then they passed the ball along and I stuffed it up my jersey and we all took off.”
The history books tell the rest. Cornelson eventually took the ball out so he could run and he was soon spotted. He sprinted away before passing to Geoff Shaw, who in turn fed Brian Mansfield for a try. Jim Hindmarsh kicked a goal from the sideline and Country won 22-20.
The move was outlawed by the IRB the next year.
Most people ask Cornelsen about his other claim to fame – four tries against the All Blacks in 1978 – but the Armidale-raised flanker remembers “Tap 5” just as fondly
“It was a special, no doubt. I loved every moment of playing for Country,” Cornelson said.
The famous picture of the Country horseshoe still hangs in the boardroom of the Waratahs headquarters.
“It is one of the folklore moments in Australian rugby isn’t it?” Ryan said.
The traditional Sydney-Country game effectively ceased in 1995, as the Super 12 altered the representative landscape forever.
But as far as Ryan is concerned, the NRC showdown is as close as replicating it as we’ve seen in the professional era.
The Eagles may be made up of Easts, Randwick and Sydney Uni players but they’re not only heavily stocked with bush-bred players – 12 of their 23 grew up in the bush – they have actively fostered a country attitude.