A miserable win for Wallabies over Pumas
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The Wallabies were almost caught out by Los Pumas on Saturday night. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
With the exception of tireless flanker Michael Hooper and man-mountain lock Kane Douglas on debut, the Wallabies had no joy in their come from behind 23-19 win over the Pumas at Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast last night.
Played in perfect conditions, it was a wretched game which will have turned many rugby supporters off spending their hard-earned dollars in the future.
At least Channel 9 gave replay viewers many rest periods with an avalanche of commercials. Boring ads were more exciting than boring rugby.
Having said that, the Pumas were far more adventurous and constructive than the Wallabies, and didn’t deserve to be on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Their pack outshone and overpowered the men in gold, while their backs were often prepared to run wide, with expansive running rugby and accurate passing.
They led 6-3 at the break, and 19-6 at the 57-minute mark, having scored 13 points in just seven minutes with two tries, and a penalty.
It was then the two worst Wallaby culprits – fly-half Quade Cooper and half Nick Phipps – threw their first pin-point and perfectly-timed passes to create tries for inside-centre Pat McCabe, and winger Digby Ioane and suddenly, against the run of play, the Wallabies led 20-19.
Replacement winger Kurtley Beale added the icing to the cake in the 78th minute with a long-range penalty – so reminiscent of his Bloemfontein match-winner in 2010, which ended a 47-year Wallaby drought on the high veldt.
The Wallaby check sheet:
Front row – Benn Robinson and Tatafu Polota-Nau went MIA, but Ben Alexander made it over the advantage line with four strong carries.
Locks – Captain Nathan Sharpe was penalised, dropped regulation possession and had his weight position all wrong when he was turned over in the in-goal area to bomb a first-half try. Kane Douglas is here to stay, he got through a ton of tough work, and never flinched.
Flankers – Michael Hooper is a world class open-sider, he was my man-of-the-match. Dave Dennis has a lot to learn to dominate the Test scene as he does Super Rugby.
No 8 – Radike Samo made many bursts with the ball and defended soundly, but dropping the ball over the try-line in the first half was inexcusable.
Had Sharpe and Samo scored, and Berrick Barnes’ first two penalty attempts not slammed into the right hand upright, the Wallabies would have led 23-6 at the break, instead of being 6-3 down.
A whole new ball game.
Scrum-half – Phipps’ passing was in the main pedestrian, and three box kicks went out on the full under pressure. His one moment of glory, setting up Ioane to score.
In his post-match interview with Sharpe, Fox expert Rod Kafer said Phipps had a fantastic game. I’m still trying to work out which game the former Wallaby utility back was watching.
Fly-half – Quade Copper was on some other planet, he certainly wasn’t at Skilled Stadium. His passing was rank amateur until be set up McCabe’s try, four times he failed to find touch under pressure and he was so slow with another he was charged down, resulting in Tomas Leonardi’s try.
Centres – Pat McCabe is no world-beater, but he’s tough and honest, and the best bloke to wear the 12 jersey. As is Adam Ashley-Cooper at outside centre. Like McCabe, he runs straight and hard, and both tackle soundly. Last night both passed the ball, which has been the major source of criticism.
Wingers – Ioane and Dom Shipperley are both here to stay, but would welcome more ball, and the quicker the better.
The jury is out on Berrick Barnes as fullback. He didn’t do anything wrong last night, but clearly Beale is the better 15.
The way Cooper played last night, Barnes is the better 10.
These are the problems Wallaby coach Robbie Deans needs to solve before Saturday week and the Boks at Loftus.
In the meantime, he can feel mighty relieved his Wallabies somehow managed to dodge a bazooka shell last night.
It was far bigger than a bullet.