Robbie Deans knocks the knockers
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is at the crossroads. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
I’ll put my cards on the table right now – I am a solid Robbie Deans supporter and have been since day one.
He didn’t win five Super titles with the Crusaders if he couldn’t coach.
Admittedly he had a roster chockful of All Blacks, including three of the very best in Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, and Kieran Read.
Which makes yesterday’s 25-19 win over the Pumas on their turf with 41,000 rabid supporters, including two of them aiming laser beams in the eyes of goal-kickers Mike Harris and Kurtley Beale, very special.
Deans went into this Test after a flogging by the Boks at Loftus, losing Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper for the rest of the season. That took the injury toll to 16 frontliners – decimation.
Then the debilitating 24-hour trip to Rosario. The odds were stacked against Deans and his fourth skipper of the season Nathan Sharpe.
Yet the Wallabies won against all those odds, and they did it very ugly. But who cares, they did it despite losing big unit lock Kane Douglas early in the first half.
In one of the worst international games in memory with both sides regulary coughing up possession, and incurring referee Craig Joubert’s wrath with 27 penalties, a rugby game surfaced in the 65th minute thanks to some Beale magic.
With Ben Tapuai running decoy in front of Digby Ioane and Paul McCabe, Beale timed his pop pass to such perfection, Ioane was through a gap as wide as Sydney Heads for a brilliant five-pointer under the dot.
The game-breaker in a penalty shoot-out.
“He’s a class act”, was Deans’ spot-on comment.
Beale is at 10 to stay. Anyone who saw the spindley head-geared teenage version playing fly-half for St Josephs College, and Australian Schoolboys for three years, had Beale ticked in as a future Wallaby with a touch of Mark Ella in his play.
That touch surfaced again yesterday, which leaves Quade Cooper’s Wallaby future with a big question mark.
Cooper can’t play anywhere else in the backline, and his “toxic environment” within Wallaby ranks still hurts.
But Cooper is one of the now 17 on the injury list, and it would appear not one of them will be able to make October 20 for the Suncorp clash with the All Blacks to wrap up the home season internationals.
Which means Deans and Sharpe have an even bigger mountain to climb.
It’s worth repeating the Wallabies went into the Puma clash with 345 caps in the starting lineup. Sharpe owned 110 of them, the other seven forwards 147 between them, and the seven backs just 88.
According to my records, it was the least experienced Wallaby backline in 44 years since a meeting against the All Blacks at the SCG in 1968.
Arthur McGill (1 cap), John Cole (1), Phil Smith (2), John Brass (9), Alan Cardy (8), John Ballesty (1) and skipper Ken Catchpole 27 – all up 49 caps. They were beaten 27-11.
It could well be the same story again on the 20th. But it the Wallabies can hang onto posession and at least give it a crack against the very best team on the planet, there won’t be any knockers.
As Sharpe asked of his team before Rosario, “let’s play like men, and not boys”
And they sure manned-up yesterday.
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