Despite the close scoreline, Australia never really looked in great danger of losing to Wales in Cardiff as the Wallabies extended their win streak against the Welsh to 13 games.
A terrifically physical contest was kept close in large part thanks to the whistle of referee Glen Jackson, who awarded 15 penalties to the home side and only 3 for the visitors.
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Of course it is not the job of the referee to ensure that both teams receive an equal share of the penalty count, but in a relatively evenly fought contest it is hard to fathom how one side could have infringed 500 percent more then the other.
That being said, the Wallabies did make it easy for Jackson to keep the home side in the game. What will concern Michael Cheika most is the amount of avoidable penalties which were conceded.
You’re always going to give penalties away in rugby, it’s just part of the game, but it’s the discipline required to not give away the unnecessary ones that separates the best from the rest.
For example, in the second half Adam Coleman gave away back-to-back penalties – one on the half way line for hands in the ruck when Jackson had clearly called for hands off, which allowed the Welsh into Wallaby territory – and then again in the 22 when Coleman slowed the ball down by not rolling away, unnecessarily so as the Wallabies had good defensive cover set to handle the next phase.
It’s hard to see the Wallabies winning at Twickenham if they are on the end of such a lopsided penalty count again.
No doubt Eddie Jones will make the officials aware of the Wallabies’ lack of discipline in order to prime them for the contest – and to wind up Michael Cheika.
To file this win under ‘job done’ is probably not doing the win justice. Despite the fact that Wallabies lead for most of the contest and it always felt as though the Welsh were kept at arm’s length, road wins are always worth savouring in international rugby.
The Welsh displayed terrific defensive line speed in an attempt to shut down the Wallabies’ big centre combination of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kurindrani, and it had the desired result. Kerevi, despite a great willingness to run the ball, was completely nullified.
The giant centres combination rarely works in rugby, and yet coaches continue to go back to it.
In fairness, the criticism of the Kerevi/Kurindrani partnership has traditionally been based around their defensive solidity, but both defended their channels very well against good opposition in Jonothan Davies. Expect Karmichael Hunt to come into the side next weekend to offer a different threat in attack.
The metronome for the Wallabies in this one was halfback Will Genia, who dictated the tempo of the game, alternating between patience and cut-throat attack.
Genia has enjoyed a welcome return to form in recent months. Against Scotland in June one wondered if we were watching a former great well past his prime, but the diminutive nine has produced some terrific form in recent Test matches and his man-of-the-match effort in Cardiff was reminiscent of his best days, when he was at the top of the class for halfbacks in world rugby.
The Wallabies’ scrum came under pressure, especially later in the game once Tatafu Polota-Nau had been substituted and the Wallabies lost Michael Hooper to the sin bin as a result of his teams’ repeated infringements, but the general theme was a lack of stable footing on the slippery surface rather than a lack of power or technique in the scrum contest. It will be an area of focus for the Wallabies this week, if it wasn’t already.
Genia spoke post-game about the Wallabies’ winning mindset, and it was evident in Cardiff. Capitalising when on top, nullifying when under pressure. It’s a winning formula and a good habit to be in.
At Twickenham, England made hard work of beating Argentina and looked very rusty at times. The Wallabies will aim to take that winning minsdet to London as Cheika smells revenge for Eddie Jones’ masterclass down under last year.