Wallabies win with something for everyone
143 Have your say
Wallabies' wing Digby Ioane celebrates with teammates flanker Michael Hooper and centre Ben Tapuai. AFP PHOTO / Juan Mabromata
Rugby is often described as ‘a game for the purists’, often by non-purists, to be fair. It’s described this way mainly as a nod to the long-held belief/disparagement that to truly enjoy the game, you had to have played it yourself at some point.
Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not.
The Wallabies won their final match of The Rugby Championship and it probably was one of those games for the purists, however that’s defined. Occasional viewers might have loved the timeslot, but perhaps not the spectacle of the match itself.
This game struck me as one of those that really did have something for everyone.
Some of us will have loved the sight of two desperate teams throwing everything they had left at their opposition, while others would have despaired at the ball-security and handling, after humidity and sweat gave the ball the adhesive properties of wet soap.
If they haven’t already, I’ll bet the words “worst game of the year” are used at some point this week in descriptions, while the Wallabies themselves would be using an understandably different adjective.
Some will see this game as precisely the reason why Argentina deserve to be in The Rugby Championship, while others will question their still-limited game plan and their inability to strike back at Australia when they had the chance.
Personally, I look at two capacity crowds in successive weeks, an anthem unrivalled in the passion stakes, and the aforementioned friendly timeslot and say Los Pumas can stay for as long as they like.
Argentina’s last home games of TRC have provided two magical ‘rugby moments’ that stand out above all others. The first was the spontaneous standing ovation for both sides on full-time last weekend in La Plata, despite the fact New Zealand had beaten the home side to the tune of 40 points. Pure rugby appreciation.
The second was the amazing send-off for retiring tighthead prop, Rodrigo Roncero, this weekend just gone in Rosario. On news of his substitution inside the last 10 minutes, Roncero shook the hand of referee Craig Joubert, who returned with “congratulations on a wonderful career.”
Roncero was embraced by his captain Jean Martin Fernandez Lobbe, and I’m sure I heard an Australian voice over one the effects mics shout out, “Well played, Doc.” Everything you love about rugby was captured in that very instant.
Some people will look at the 27 penalties awarded in a game where the ball was in play for only 27 minutes, and conclude that Joubert was pedantic and trigger-happy with the whistle, while others will see two teams with questionable discipline and wonder why more yellow cards weren’t handed out.
Joubert handled that game about as well as he possibly could have, and despite missing several knock-ons and probably countless more cases of players going off their feet at the ruck in either attack or defence, I thought he controlled proceedings pretty well. Brett Sheehan might disagree, I’ll concede.
Some people will give Robbie Deans credit for getting his team up for the contest, considering all that’s going on in and around the squad at the moment, while others will say he’s just delayed the inevitable. I saw one of you out there typed the words “will be sacked” and “saved his job” only hours either side of the win on Sunday morning.
Some, like I am, will be even more convinced that Kurtley Beale is the man to wear the Wallaby no.10 jersey from here on. A couple of absent mates, one injured, one disgruntled may well have designs on it themselves for the remaining 2012 Tests, but surely over the last week and a bit Beale has now earned the key playmaking role for the immediate future.
Frankly, I’m just happy someone’s worn the jersey in consecutive Tests and stayed healthy.
It might have been the only backline highlight of the game, but the set-play try scored by Digby Ioane was very well executed. The angles run from Pat McCabe and Ben Tapuai were crucial, but the touch of the pass from Beale to Ioane just as the defensive waters parted is what converts that play into five points.
It was noticeable that Tapuai ran his angle from the inside centre position, too, and that McCabe ran in the 13 channel, something several of you suggested might happen when the team was named last week. They might have been the seventh centre combination used in 2012, but I think nothing would be lost if both retained their spots for the final Bledisloe Test in Brisbane.
McCabe will still have his critics from this game, as he always does. I thought he played the role required of him well, and linked well with Tapuai, too. Both were strong in defence, shutting down the Argentinean midfield overall.
On Tapuai, I couldn’t help but chuckle when recalling past “at least Taps can pass to his winger” comments when Tapuai ignored his unmarked outside man at one stage. It happens to all them at some point.
Some will see Nick Cummins’ debut as the first of many Wallaby appearances to come, while others will point to some dropped balls and conclude he’s out of his depth. I’ll suggest they’re a harsh marker.
Beale, Cummins, Tapuai, Mike Harris, Scott Higginbotham, Benn Robinson, Michael Hooper… there were plenty of good performances to take away from Rosario and be well contented with, if that’s what you need.
Likewise, the dire error tally, the penalties conceded, and the ill-discipline still give rise to the fact that this Wallabies squad have plenty to work on for the remaining internationals this year.
New Zealand, France, England, Italy, and Wales lay in wait over a period that simply cannot be about winding down for Christmas. Rugby World Cup seedings being on the line just add to the enormity of the situation.
But this was a game for everyone. There were parts to get carried away about, just as there were parts that ensured remotes were thrown at TVs. Just another week watching the Wallabies in 2012, really.
Brett McKay is a former non-tackling scrumhalf and not-quite-1st Grade middle order stalwart. A rugby and cricket expert for The Roar since July 2009 (having joined in Sept 2008), Brett has written for Inside Rugby and Cricket Australia, and is also PLAY Canberra's rugby correspondent. He tweets from @BMcSport