Future Vodafone Warrior Ruben Wiki and Quentin Pongia, then with the club, celebrating the Kiwis' 1998 Anzac Test win against Australia at North Harbour Stadium. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

It’s time to set the record straight about the last time the Kiwis had back-to-back Test wins over Australia before the just-finished 2014 Four Nations.

Much was made about it in both the lead-up to and aftermath of the Kiwis' 22-18 title-clinching win in Wellington last Saturday night.

One reference after another was and still is being made to 1953 being the last instance when the Kiwis hosted Australia in a three-Test series, winning the first 25-5 at the Addington Show Grounds in Christchurch and the second 12-11 at the Basin Reserve in Wellington (before losing the third 16-18 at Carlaw Park in Auckland).

The series win followed the 1952 success in Australia when the Kiwis won the second Test 49-25 in Brisbane and the third 19-9 in Sydney which was to give the Kiwis a platform for an unprecedented run of four straight Test victories against the Kangaroos.

The fact is the double triumphs in 1953 were not the last time before Saturday night that New Zealand had beaten Australia in consecutive Tests. Certainly it made for a more romantic angle to claim a 61-year-old drought had been ended in Wellington but to do so was a case of being economical with the truth.

Indeed the last double actually happened in 1997 and 1998 yet this achievement has strangely been discounted or discredited out of ignorance which, in itself, is grossly disrespectful to the players of the time.

This is how it played out: The Kiwis beat Australia 30-12 at North Harbour Stadium on September 26 in 1997 and then followed up with a 22-16 victory in their next outing, the Anzac Test at the same venue on April 24, 1998 (still New Zealand’s only Anzac Test triumph). These remain two of the Kiwis’ most compelling performances as, in fairness, do all wins against the Australians. 

Some observers say this instance of consecutive wins shouldn't be considered because the 1997 Test was played in the Super League-ARL season when the Australians were able to field Super League players only while the Kiwis were selected from all available players regardless of their affiliations.

But please don't try telling Kiwi coach Frank Endacott or any of his team that the 1997 Test doesn't count. They have every reason to be affronted by the suggestion.

Earlier that season the Kiwis played Australia on Anzac Day at the Sydney Football Stadium; both matches were official Tests and are included in the players’ Kiwi Test records, as they should be.

Involved in the 1997 victory were eight Vodafone Warriors – Matthew Ridge, Sean Hoppe, Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones, Syd Eru, Stephen Kearney, Logan Swann and Joe Vagana – while Ridge, Hoppe, Jones and Joe Vagana were there again in 1998 along with 1998 signings Quentin Pongia, Nigel Vagana and Kevin Iro. They have a place in history for their role in the first case of back-to-back Test successes against Australia in 45 years and deserve to be acknowledged wholeheartedly, not begrudgingly. 

What is indisputable, though, is that the Kiwis’ 30-12 and 22-18 victories against the Kangaroos in the 2014 Four Nations represent the first time since 1953 that a New Zealand side has had consecutive wins against Australia in the same season.

During the 2005 Tri Nations the Kiwis beat Australia in two of three encounters including the final. In the absence of old-fashioned Test series this could translate into a 2-1 series victory although the Australians did win the 2005 Anzac Test in Brisbane to make it 2-2 for the year. It's clearcut in 2014 with the Kiwis finishing 2-1 ahead for the year when including the Anzac Test played in Sydney.

For the record here are the details of the Kiwis' 1997-1998 back-to-back Test wins over Australia:

 

September 26, 1997

North Harbour Stadium, Albany

New Zealand 30 (Stacey Jones 2, Syd Eru 2, Matthew Ridge, Tony Iro tries; Matthew Ridge 3 goals).

Australia 12 (Darren Lockyer 2 tries; Ryan Girdler 2 goals).

Halftime | 10-6 New Zealand.

Referee | Russell Smith (England).

Crowd | 17,456.

New Zealand | Matthew Ridge (c); Sean Hoppe, Richard Blackmore, Kevin Iro, Richard Barnett; Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones; John Lomax, Syd Eru, Quentin Pongia; Tony Iro, Stephen Kearney; Logan Swann. Interchange: John Timu, Joe Vagana, Tyran Smith, Robbie Paul. Coach: Frank Endacott.

Australia | Darren Lockyer; Ken Nagas, Steve Renouf, Ryan Girdler, Wendell Sailor; Laurie Daley (c), Paul Green; Jason Stevens, Craig Gower, Brad Thorn; Matt Adamson, Bradley Clyde; Darren Smith. Interchange: Shane Webcke, Craig Greenhill, Brett Mullins, Luke Priddis.

 

April 24, 1998

North Harbour Stadium, Albany

New Zealand 22 (Kevin Iro 2, Sean Hoppe, Terry Hermansson tries; Matthew Ridge 3 goals).

Australia 16 (Terry Hill 2, Steve Renouf tries; Mat Rogers 2 conversions).

Halftime | 12-6 Australia.

Referee | Russell Smith (England).

Crowd | 24,640.

New Zealand | Matthew Ridge (c); Sean Hoppe, Richard Blackmore, Ruben Wiki, Richard Barnett; Robbie Paul, Stacey Jones; John Lomax, Henry Paul, Quentin Pongia; Tony Iro, Jarrod McCracken; Logan Swann. Interchange: Nigel Vagana, Joe Vagana, Terry Hermansson, Kevin Iro. Coach: Frank Endacott.

Australia | Robbie O’Davis; Mat Rogers, Steve Renouf, Terry Hill, Wendell Sailor; Laurie Daley (c), Andrew Johns; Rodney Howe, Geoff Toovey, Paul Harragon; Steve Menzies, Brad Thorn; Brad Fittler. Interchange: Darren Lockyer, Nik Kosef, Glenn Lazarus, Dean Pay.