Where does Wallaby coach Michael Cheika go from here after last night’s 54-34 hammering by the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium?
The humiliating defeat is best summed up in the first quarter.
In 26 minutes the All Blacks scored 26 points, while the Wallabies missed 26 tackles.
All the wash-up from Wallabies vs All Blacks Bledisloe 1:
» QUIGLEY: Bledisloe a damning indictment
» Match report: All Blacks wallop Wallabies
» What changes should Australia make for Bledisloe 2?
» Vote in our DIY Wallabies player ratings
» WATCH: Highlights from Bledisloe 1
» WATCH: Michael Cheika’s post game comments
» Re-live the match with our live blog
That’s not believable, but it is a cold, hard statistical fact.
It’s so astonishing it’s worth repeating: 26 points in 26 minutes, with the Wallabies missing 26 tackles.
A half-time scoreline of 40-6, the biggest in history between the All Blacks and Wallabies, ended up 54-34, the second biggest in Rugby Championship history to the 90 points scored by the Boks and All Blacks in 1997.
When it was 54-6 after 48 minutes it looked as though a cricket score was looming.
Somehow the Wallabies found some pride to “win” the next 32 minutes 28-nil. Now that’s one hell of a comeback.
Rugby league convert Curtis Rona scored on debut, as did benchman Tevita Kuridrani, followed by the Wallabies’ best attacking pair in Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau.
Bernard Foley converted all four.
Beale was playing in the starting line-up for the first time in two years, and his first Wallaby Test since the Rugby World Cup final in 2015.
He covered 150 metres, more than anyone else, with Folau covering 147. The All Blacks’ best were Reiko Ioane’s 129, and flanker Liam Squire’s 104.
Beale was named the Wallabies’ best, and rightfully so. The quicker Beale and Folau combine more often, the better. They are by far the most lethal attacking units in the side.
You would think given a 54-34 scoreline that the stats would heavily be in the All Blacks’ favour.
Sometimes stats don’t tell the truth.
How could the Wallabies run 650 metres to the All Blacks 641, with the men in black scoring eight tries to four? And the Wallabies made 197 passes to 160.
The Wallabies had only 47 per cent possession in the first half, but 68 per cent in the second.
It was the same story with territory – the Wallabies with 47 per cent in the first half, but 64 per cent in the second.
Where the Wallabies really missed out were the 48 missed tackles compared to the All Blacks’ 40, with the majority in the second half.
So what can Cheika do by next Saturday in Dunedin?
Not a lot.
Kuridrani for Samu Kerevi at outside centre would be a start, Lopeti Timani for Sean McMahon at number 8 is another, and perhaps Rob Simmons for Roger Arnold at lock and Sekope Kepu for prop Allan Alaalatoa.
But the main aim must be for the Wallabies firing from the get go, not the second half.
Watching the Wallabies last night brought back nightmares of watching the Waratahs and the many times they have given up a big first-half lead.
It’s a brain explosion that can only be fixed by being an international team, not a social side.
Damn it, rugby is an 80-minute international game where you can’t doze off in the first 40 and hope to win.
With only eight wins from 19 internationals since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, it’s time for the Wallabies to grow up and earn their big bucks.