Wallabies better, but still not good enough
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Australia's Berrick Barnes shows his disappointment after the 22-0 defeat to New Zealand during the Bledisloe Cup rugby union test match at Eden Park in Auckland (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)
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Sonny Bill Williams was the standout in the All Blacks’ comprehensive 22-0 defeat of the Wallabies at Eden Park last night to hold aloft the Bledisloe Cup for the 10th straight year.
The giant inside centre is the best off-loader of a rugby football I’ve ever seen. His talent in this department covers the full 360 degree range whether he’s standing erect, at full bore, or heading for the turf under a tackle.
It’s uncanny how well he can keep All Black momentum intact with pinpoint accuracy. And last night he was at his best.
He’ll be a huge loss to the All Blacks when he leaves on Tuesday for a six-month stint in Japan rugby before an expected couple of years in the NRL with the Roosters.
“He goes with our best wishes, and hopefully he’ll get back to us as soon as he can,” was how All Black coach Steve Hansen described his departing hot property.
“He grew a leg this year. His performance in the Super Rugby (with the Chiefs) was outstanding, and all through the Irish series he played top notch rugby as well as the last two Tests (against the Wallabies)”.
The standout for the Wallabies last night?
Quade Cooper did nothing unpredictable, badly missing touch once, as well as three tackles, but he paced himself back into the big time to get rid of nine months of international rust. Along with tyro flankers Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, all three will be better next time out.
But to give the men-in-gold the credit they deserve, they played far better than last weeks capitulation. They were outgunned by a truly professional side, but aided and abetted by their own stupid elementary mistakes that cost 15 points through five Dan Carter penalties.
Obviously 15 makes a big hole in 22 points, a scoreline which forced the Wallabies to abandon three penalty shots at goal chasing seven pointers in the last quarter to get back in the contest.
Just as obviously the Wallabies failed in other areas as well. They were out-rucked and mauled 110 to 74, the All Blacks offloaded 26 times to 5, with SBW showing the way, and the Wallabies missed 20 tackles to 7.
Worse still the number of times the Wallabies kicked away possession when holding ball in hand was mandatory. At times possession was as scarce as hen’s teeth, kicking it away so often was criminal with every Wallaby back an offender.
“We said before the game we weren’t going to do that,” ventured Wallaby hooker Stephen Moore in a post-match interview with Fox’s Brendan Cannon.
Which begs the question why? It doesn’t make any sense.
Nor does it make any sense the Wallabies are ranked the second best rugby nation in the world. That being the case it’s the All Blacks and daylight.
But Hansen was surprisingly supportive of the Wallabies.
“All credit to them, they defended magnificently. We put them under a lot of heat for periods of time.
“I know the score probably doesn’t make them feel too good, but there were parts of their game they would be pretty happy with”.
Two Wallaby tackles did stand out – Adam Ashley-Cooper’s crunching diving tackle into touch on Israel Dagg at the corner post when a try seemed a laydown misere, and Sitaleki Timani ripping the ball off Luke Romano on the ground in the in-goal area, saving another “certain” five-pointer.
Steve Hansen was right, there were long periods when the Wallabies stuck to their defensive guns, only to undo all the good work with some dumb rugby giving away costly penalties.
Next up the Boks in Perth in a fortnight.
Don’t expect too many new Wallaby faces in the 22, that’s the way it is.
It’s not right, but it is a fact of life.
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