Soon enough, maybe even as soon as this week, we’ll find out what kind of poker player Wallabies coach Michael Cheika really is.
New Zealand women’s rugby domination over arch rivals Australia has continued with the all-conquering Black Ferns overwhelming the Wallaroos 31-11 in the Bledisloe Cup curtain raiser in Sydney.
The five tries-to-one rout at ANZ Stadium extended the Kiwis’ winning streak to 16 over their trans-Tasman foes, with Australia yet to savour victory in 14 years of matches between the sides.
Led by 53-Test skipper Fiao’o Faamausili – who scored an enterprising hat-trick off the back of dominant rolling mauls – the visitors were unstoppable through the forwards, with numerous multi-phase forays grinding their gallant hosts into the turf.
Despite the outcome Faamausili’s counterpart Liz Patu was upbeat and confident the gap could be closed after nine players debuted with the 2021 World Cup in mind.
“I’m really happy with the way things are going forward (for Australian women’s rugby),” Patu said post-match.
“I’m actually happy that these efforts aren’t going unnoticed. The Black Ferns played an awesome game but we (also) did an awesome job to counteract that.”
With New Zealand having posted 178 points and conceded just 28 in their past five matches against Australia, there was a real possibility Saturday’s first of leg of a trans-Tasman doubleheader could turn into a demolition job.
But with Australian rugby’s governing body pouring much-needed resources into the women’s game, and off the back of a successful five-team inaugural Super W season, a revitalised Wallaroos outfit competed doggedly with the world No.1-ranked team.
The visitors scored in the 11th minute through halfback Kendra Cocksedge following a 10-phase passage of play – the Black Ferns’ superior control of play and dominance at the lineout were familiar themes throughout.
Savvy hooker Faamausili opened her account a quarter of an hour later with a heads-up raid on an extremely skinny blindside off the back of a dominant maul.
She powered over twice more in the second half, but not before prop Aldora Itunu crashed over on the stroke of halftime to produce a 19-3 lead.
Australia were better in the second stanza with exciting rugby sevens product Mahalia Murphy turning on the pace and razzle-dazzle from fullback with a number of incisive runs.
Although the contest was out of reach the Wallaroos competed until the final siren and were rewarded with a late try to Alisha Hewett.
The next contest between the rivals will be off the field with Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby competing to host the 2021 World Cup, with the successful applicant to be announced in November.