Pocock the difference against Wales
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David Pocock led from the front against Wales (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
The difference between the Wallabies winning their Test series with Wales 3-0 and the tourists winning 3-0 was just one standout – Wallaby skipper David Pocock.
Big call? No, deadly accurate.
Yesterday, in front of a record rugby crowd at Allianz Stadium of 43,889, the Wallabies fell over the line 20-19 to complete the clean sweep of 27-19 and 25-23. Just a total of 11 points difference in 240 minutes of rugby.
Make no mistake, the Welsh could have, and probably should have, won all three internationals.
But the inspirational 23-year-old open-side flanker stood tall, kept his cool under tremendous pressure to marshall his troops by leading from the front, and has all the makings of an Andrew Slack, Nick Farr-Jones, and John Eales to be among the best Wallaby skippers Australia has produced in the last 30 years.
No better example than during the 55th minute yesterday. With the Wallabies leading 12-9, Kurtley Beale broke clear in midfield after a brilliant flick pass from lock Sitaleki Timani. With only Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny to beat, Beale chip-kicked into wide open spaces 30 metres out.
At Beale’s pace it was cut and dried.
But Halfpenny deliberately set himself to late tackle Beale, and brought him down. It had to be a penalty try, or a penalty right in front at worst. “Play on,” called referee Craig Joubert to massive boos from the big crowd.
In just 22 seconds Wales went from being under the pump to a five metre scrum at the other end of the field.
Five minutes later, after hammering the Wallaby line, Wales scored to take a 16-12 lead. That disgraceful Joubert decision cost the Wallabies 14 points – the seven they were denied, to the gift seven to Wales.
Most Wallaby sides would have tossed it in at that stage. But not this Pocock-led unit.
Three minutes later centre Rob Horne crashed over for a try to regain the lead 17-16, but that was a dicey decision as well from the TMO Vinny Munro. There was no way Horne was in control of the ball that slipped from his possession as he dived for the line with Halfpenny in attendance.
A square-up decision? It sure looked like it, but justice was done in the net result.
After swapping penalties from Halfpenny (4/5), and Berrick Barnes (5/5), Joubert blew time at 20-19.
Pocock apart, who again somehow managed to squeeze 100 minutes worth of positive rugby into 80, Will Genia was a huge improvement on his second Test showing, winger Digby Ioane was always busy, so too locks Nathan Sharpe and Timani.
The Wallabies return to Super Rugby this week, and regroup in August for the first two games of the inaugural Rugby Championship, both against the All Blacks in successive weeks at ANZ, and Eden Park.
That will be the real litmus test for David Pocock’s new-look men-in-gold. By then Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell, and Joe Tomane will make backline selection very difficult.
But what a nice problem to have.
Up front, hooker Stephen Moore must replace Tatafu Polata-Nau. Moore’s lineout feeding isn’t crash hot, but Polata-Nau’s is woeful. James Slipper will figure prominently for a prop spot.
And young gun locks Cadeyrn Neville and Hugh Pyle will press for recognition for the remainder of the Super season.
Depth, that’s what wins big tournaments. And the Rugby Championship definitely qualifies for that category.
The rest is up to coach Robbie Deans. The clean sweeping of Wales should leave him very bouyant now his win percentage has at last hit 60.
The Wallabies proved yesterday they can run the ball. And long may they do just that.
Especially Berrick Barnes who has come into his own this series. And it’s improved his goal-kicking as well as his confidence has grown.
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