The Wallaroos wore a jersey with an Indigenous design for the first time.
The Wallaroos made a giant stride for Australian sport by singing an Indigenous national anthem ahead of their Test match against Japan before stumbling in their World Cup preparations with a shock 12-10 defeat.
Players and fans alike were swept up in the emotion as the Wallaroos, clad for the first time in an Indigenous jersey, sang both the traditional version of Advance Australia Fair and then a translation in the language of the local Yugambeh people.
The historic start to the Test match seemed to inspire the visitors who set out with a steely determination to also write their name into the international rugby record books.
It created a pressure cooker atmosphere at The Canal and it was the visitors who handled it best.
At the 77th minute the Wallaroos had the chance to steal victory but fullback Lori Cramer, usually one of rugby’s more reliable sharpshooters, sprayed a penalty goal attempt from a gentle angle.
It was Cramer’s third missed attempt at goal and, on the scoreboard at least, that was the difference in the match.
When the siren sounded moments later the Sakura had claimed their first Test match triumph over the green and gold.
Last time they played almost three years ago the Australians, ranked five in the world, trounced the 12th ranked Japanese 46-3.
In a first half centred around defence, the Japanese matched everything the Wallaroos threw at them with strong line speed and superb tackling technique, putting the pressure on Australia and resulting in numerous handling errors and mistimed passes.
The crowd at Bond University waited 49 minutes before first points were scored with Japan crossing to take the lead 7-0.
The Wallaroos finally put together some consistent phases before Ashley Marsters crashed over from a rolling maul to bring the Wallaroos within two points.
The Sakura regained the lead with some quick passing and strong running lines from Japanese flanker Kyoto Hosokawa to score in the right corner.
Finally, the Wallaroos began to take advantage of their size difference with backrower Grace Hamilton making a decisive run to cross for the home side from a well-worked maul, once again pegging back Japan’s lead.
But with Cramer’s radar out of tune, they couldn’t bridge the gap.
After the match coach Jay Tregonning and skipper Shannon Parry were quick to defend Cramer, saying the Wallaroos had plenty of other chances to win the game.
“We were our own worst enemy,” Parry said.
“We failed to execute on a number of occasions, and I’d hate to know the turnover count.
“We’ve only been together for 10 days as a new squad, so we are in a learning phase. I’m just glad this happened now and not at the World Cup later this year.’’