It was unconvincing, it was sloppy and it was downright ugly at times.
Yes, Australia beat Georgia and secured their place in the quarter-finals. But it was anything but an eye-catching or powerful a performance against a team ranked 14th in the world.
Georgia were plucky and determined, and frustrated the Wallabies’ attack throughout. But again we saw Australia’s limitations laid bare. Again we saw poor ball-handling and lack of execution. Again we saw another player handed a yellow card.
These are the five things we learned.
1. Michael Cheika and his players had no idea what World Rugby are cracking down on
Because if Reece Hodge was unlucky in the opener, if Adam Coleman was unlucky against Uruguay, then Isa Naisarani was lucky in this one.
The No.8’s swinging arm caught the head of his Georgian opponent and he was only sent for ten. Usually such an action would warrant a red card.
Regardless of whether the referee’s calls were right or not, the Wallabies have to get their tackling down. They have to be cleaner than clean when it comes to contact, otherwise they’re going to be in hot water in their next game. The referees are looking to hand out cards and Australia is making it easy for them.
Only Samoa have given away more penalties at this World Cup. Australia’s discipline needs massive improvement. Whinging about the referees off the field won’t change a thing, but working on their tackling in training will.
2. Matt To’omua is not a ten
Yes, he did come off the bench and lift the men in gold against Wales, with his flat attack and direct play. But inside centre is his best position, not fly half.
Against Georgia, To’omua lacked variety or imagination in trying to break their defence down. It was simple stuff and the Georgians ate it up. Nic White showed his worth with an opportunistic try, and should remain the starting No.9. Will Genia was decent off the bench and offers real impact in the second half.
Christian Lealiifano should be Australia’s ten. He is a better kicker than Foley and has been in much better form in 2019.
3. Jack Dempsey continues to grow in Japan
The flanker was exceptional against Uruguay, getting his hands dirty and making a nuisance of himself around the field.
He did the same against the Georgians, popping up for a try and making some big hits. He is worthy of a place on the bench against England.
4. Marika is magic
Both Jordan Petaia and James O’Connor made little impact against the Georgians. In contrast, Marika Korobiete scored one of the best tries of the tournament. He went on a bustling 50-metre run, beating four tacklers on his wondrous way to the line.
The Fijian has real X-factor, and a potent mixture of strength and power. Cheika cannot afford to leave him out. He is a potential match-winner.
The other wing spot is pretty open, as is the fullback position. Kurtley Beale didn’t last long with a head knock, while Dane Haylett-Petty was largely ineffectual. As long as Beale is fit, surely he starts in the next match.
5. The Wallabies won’t be winning this World Cup
Selections aside, perhaps the biggest learning was confirmation of what we have known for a long time. On their day they can match anyone – the All Blacks included – but they remain horribly inconsistent and prone to implosion.
In every game in Japan they have started poorly and taken time to get going. They fell behind early to Fiji and had to rally. They gifted Wales an early lead, too much in the end to reel them in. Against Uruguay they were stop-start for most of the contest.
To win the World Cup you need to win at least six games out of seven, but normally seven in a row. When was the last time the Wallabies did that? It has been quite a while.
Only the most positive would expect them to knock off England, then New Zealand and then either Wales, France or South Africa in the final. Positive might be putting it kindly. Delusional is probably a better description.
Australia has the talent and depth to compete with the best in the world, but not the consistency or the resolve to be crowned the best in the world next month.