Wow, what a Test match that was in Melbourne! All congratulations to Ireland for such a great game.
The Irish A side showed why they are rated the #2 side in the world, with their pack causing all sorts of strife in the lineouts and dominating the breakdowns.
First up, no excuses the better team won and proved the old adage, “forwards win matches and the backs just determine by how much”.
I said during the match blog the WB forwards were so starved of possession that they must have felt they were in Ethiopia. Let’s face it, its not like they didn’t know this was coming. The Joe Schmidt rule book is and always has been: “the other mob can’t score if you have the ball”.
This leads to pressure, territory and eventually penalties which cost points or more territory. The Ireland forwards controlled the ball (and match) magnificently and took the WB out of the match with 68 per cent possession backed up with an accurate rush defence.
After a week of planning the Irish countered and won the up-n-under kicking duels, mainly because they had the sense not to kick anywhere near Isreal Folau and were astute enough and well trained to have ‘legal blockers’ protecting their catchers. The Irish backline defended well but didn’t impress me that much in attack.
To be really honest, I thought the score flattered the Wallabies. I was astounded that Bernie Foley didn’t pick up a yellow card for a knockdown in the 70th minute. If he had been the likely score would have been 26-14 to Ireland.
So where do the Wallabies go from here? Despite Ireland’s overall superiority in the lineouts, both sides only lost one on their throw, though a lot of the Aussie wins on their throws were ‘dirty’ ball i.e.: a scramble.
The props held their own in the scrums and in fact won the only tighthead against Ireland’s feed. However the WB were outmuscled and pushed around in the breakdowns and did really well to steal as much ball as they managed. That’s where the game was won and lost.
There were some total brain explosions also, witness in the 33rd minute; Australia gets a penalty and Ireland have a forward on the yellow card chair. Well shoot me now! Bernie Foley and Michael Hooper instantly decide to run the ball.
Anyone a nanosecond of neurone impulse in the cranium would have kicked 30m downfield for the line and run a lineout and maul or set move in Ireland’s territory. They must have thought it was a great play except they ended up with egg all over the face for (a) Ireland had already run back 10m and set their defence line across the park and (b) no-one else in the WB team knew it was on.
So when Hooper gets tackled and isolated there are no WB players within cooee to contest the ruck. Result penalty against WB. That is just dumb dumb dumb rushed and playing into Ireland’s hand.
Dare I suggest the major reason for this loss is that of the three backrowers, only David Pocock was in the ruck contest? He played a great game but had little help from his backrow partners-in-crime, this comes back to the team selection and coaching. The 6-7-8 combo has to have at least one good lineout merchant and two good ruck monkeys.
Mike Hooper is there to tackle and run the ball but doesn’t have the weight/power to contest midfield rucks. Caleb Timu tackled well, ran the ball OK but was completely MIA at rucks, I never saw him go into one breakdown.
He looked a bit of stage-fright and gave away three ridiculous penalties. So Pocock was effectively contesting on his own against three Irish ruck monkeys for a lot of the match. Add that forwards were running at Pocock to tire him and also tie him down in tackles so the next ruck or two were Pocock-free zones.
I thought the WB props and locks went ok in the rucks but the new hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who carried the ball and tackled well, was a bit disappointing and often seemed last man into the ruck. Nice extra weight but usually way too late to be effective. He and Timu were hooked at half time, but the WB forwards were gassed by then.
In effect I am saying “Its the rucks, Stupid! Hold parity there and WB should win easily”. So what to do? To have any chance in the third Test the Wallabies must counter the possession at the breakdowns. Make Ireland fight for every ball, attack their rucks with power, precision and don’t depend on just one person.
Adam Coleman says he is fit to play in Sydney so the only change in the tight five that I would make is start Tolu Latu, as he is very good in rucks, and keep Paenga-Amosa as reserve. You lose weight in scrums but now have a rucking helper for Pocock. Caleb Timu has to be dropped, he is not ready for the big time yet.
I would start Lukhan Tui as blindside flanker, he is good in lineouts and a hard man in tackles and rucks. For this match, and I stress just this match, I would start Peter Samu at openside and Pocock at #8 (Samu is the faster player) and move Hooper to the bench where his speed in the last 30 minutes would play havoc.
My reasoning is Samu, Latu and Pocock attacking rucks would be a mighty weapon and Samu is far superior in the tough middle that Hooper.
This is not an anti-Hooper rant as the Hooper tackling-Pocock first man into ruck combo works well but against 3-4 ruck artisans you need to hit the Irish with the kitchen sink. Would Cheika agree to this? Methinks there is more chance of Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson dancing together at the next Climate Change Fundraiser ball.
I would keep the 6:2 bench as injuries/tiredness is more likely to happen there. Bring in Ned Hanigan or Matt Philip as the reserve #5-6 hybrid to replace Tui. I would not start Hanigan as he is too soft into rucks and carrying the ball plus our lineouts were not the major problem.
But give him his dues, he tackles well and has a big engine for the whole 80 minutes. You could also consider Matt Philip as he is tall, hard as nails and has experience at #6 and lock. Assuming Cheika doesn’t read The Roar and starts with Hooper then keep Peter Samu as the reserve back rower.
The only other forward change I would consider is Alan Alaalatoa replaces Tom Robertson on the bench however Robertson hasn’t done anything wrong so will likely keep his spot on the bench.
In the backs, perhaps swap Marika Koroibete with Tom Banks, speedy and a good defender against the kick-chase. Foley suggests that Nick Phipps and Joe Powell are the halfbacks for Sydney and that’s most likely the best of the rest.
I thought the Wallabies backline looked pretty solid with Reece Hodge at #12 for the last 20 odd minutes, so you might see him kept as reserve Mr Fixit for the whole backlne bar halfback. If Kurt Beale is injured and cannot start, its a bit of a disaster.
Hodge would start at inside centre and a forced smokey here to cover the #10-IC position. The only bloke with the class to cover there is Duncan Paia’aua.
So a slightly harder team, better at ruck contests and play with brain switched ON, and no stupid penalties or dumb rushed plays. Its a team game, so come on WBs, lets play as a team.
My team is
Piggies: S.Sio, T.Latu, S.Kepu, I.Rodda, A.Coleman, L.Tui, P.Samu, D.Pocock.
Handbags: N.Phipps, B.Foley, T.Banks, K.Beale, S.Kerevi, DHP, Izzy F.
Bench warmers: B.Paenga-Amosa, A.Alaalatoa, T.Tupou, R.Simmons, N.Hanigan, M.Hooper, J.Powell, R.Hodge.
Comments are welcome, all compliments accepted with beer and chocolates please, bricks and bats no thanks!