The Wallabies have run out 34-15 victors over Manu Samoa in their final hit-out before the World Cup.
It was a convincing performance by the Australians, who were missing ten regular starters, including skipper Michael Hooper.
In his absence was a returning David Pocock to led the side to victory, with Matt Toomua also playing a leading role, putting his hand up for World Cup selection in Michael Cheika’s side.
As for the Samoans, they looked clunky at times, particularly at the lineout. They have plenty to work on in the lead-up to their World Cup opener against Russia on 24 September.
Here are five talking points from the game.
David Pocock’s return gives Michael Cheika plenty to think about
David Pocock’s return to Test rugby from a calf injury that saw him miss plenty of Super Rugby this year was impressive, to say the least. However, it has left Wallabies coach Michael Cheika with a selection headache: how to fit both Pocock and regular captain Michael Hooper into the side.
Hooper and Pocock are both obviously in the top 15 Australian rugby players. Both are most comfortable in the No. 7 jersey, which has made fitting them into the same side difficult over the years.
Hooper is the captain and should not be removed from his spot. But does Cheika risk playing Pocock at No. 8 or No. 6, particularly when he has other options in those positions, such as Isi Naisarani or Lukhan Salakaia-Loto?
Cheika could just include Pocock on the bench, but that would likely mean he won’t be on the field at the same time as Hooper – and it would be a huge boost to have these two on the field at the same time.
Either way, it’s not a bad headache to have for Cheika coming into such an important tournament.
Samoan lineout atrocious at crucial times
It’s fair to say Samoan hooker Ray Niuia was sloppy with his lineout throws, giving away possession on several occasions, sometimes deep in his own half.
Unfortunately for the Samoans, things didn’t improve in the 45th minute when Niuia was replaced by Motu Matu’u, who threw some loose balls of his own, also deep in his own half.
The Samoans lost six of their nine lineouts, including one late in the game when they were on the attack and trailing by seven.
Samoa are in Pool A against Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Russia. This is a very open pool and the Samoans are every chance of progressing. But they won’t trouble Ireland, Scotland or even Japan if they can’t tighten up this crucial area of their game.
Matt Toomua a very handy back up playmaker
Starting in the No. 12 jersey, Matt Toomua was arguably the Wallabies’ best player in the 34-15 defeat of Samoa. He threw some beautiful passes, set up a try to Adam Ashley-Cooper in the 29th minute with a neat grubber in behind the line and scored one of his own in the 80th minute.
With the likes of Christian Lealiifano, Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi still to return, it may be hard for Toomua to get a spot in the Wallabies top XV.
However, he has surely cemented himself a spot on the bench with that performance, and if any of the above men were to go down injured, he would be a very handy replacement for Michael Cheika to have at his disposal.
Wallabies legends farewelled in style
This was the final Test match on home soil for several Australian greats, and the rest of the team will be happy to have sent the senior players off in style.
Will Genia, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu have all played their last match for the Wallabies in Australia, and the Wallabies will surely be worse off for their absence in the future.
It was a particularly fitting end for Polota-Nau, who started off playing for the Parramatta Two-Blues in the Shute Shield at the old Parramatta Stadium (on the same site as the current Bankwest Stadium).
Bankwest a bust for rugby
Bankwest Stadium is arguably the crown jewel of Sydney sporting venues at the moment. It was quite the sight to see 25,000 packed into the world-class venue for Friday night’s NRL clash between the Parramatta Eels and the Manly Sea Eagles.
However, it was very disappointing to have not even close to that figure witness Bankwest Stadium’s first-ever rugby Test.
It would have been a great pleasure for both sides to play at the venue, but it was an embarrassment to the game to see nearly every seat in the upper tiers empty as well as many seats on the bottom levels.
Perhaps a higher tier of opposition would attract greater crowds to the venue. One thing is for sure, though: despite the small crowd, you could still hear the unique roar of Bankwest Stadium through your television screens thanks to the venue’s amazing acoustics. It is truly a credit to Australian sport.