As I sat down to watch the final game of the Tri Nations between the Wallabies and Los Pumas (with a light blue tilt it must be said) the expectations were that the Dave Rennie-coached side would be looking to use a variety of techniques to move the Argentinians around.
I expected the visitors to defend with the physicality and focus we have seen over the last month. However, it soon became apparent that a version of Groundhog day was being played out in front of us all.
1. Argentina like to tackle, and they are really good at it
While the Wallabies went searching for the width needed to stretch the visitors defence, they struggled because of the lack of variation in their attack and held back by a vanilla kicking game.
James O’Connor ran into contact with five of his first seven touches and the variety of kicking which was shown to move the Pumas defence around only the week prior was simply not evident in either vision or execution.
2. Wet weather football
It sure does know how to rain in Sydney and the situation on Saturday demanded the leadership to alter the game plan to fit with what was falling from the skies.
But after an hour of football the Australian forwards had run for a collective 20 metres. The introduction of the bench and the sending off of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto saw the approach tighten up with more forwards involved, but the ability to drain the defensive tacklers with waves of heavier ball carriers had already been passed up, meaning fresher defenders who got to their feet quickly all the way to the final whistle.
Taniela Tupou, Rob Valentini and Angus Bell racked up more run metres than the entire starting pack by the end.
The lack of respect by the Australian backs, and primarily the midfield backs, for ball security was both obvious and distressing all at once, especially so early in the game – it’s hard enough to get and control the football without having it handed back softly with poor decision making and skill execution.
While the possession statistics skew this number, interesting to note Nicola Sanchez passed only twice in the game, James O’Conner fifteen times, often for the ball to go to ground outside him, he should have turned the supply valve off early.
3. Penalties early in the game are worth the same as ones at the end, right?
You wouldn’t think so the way this Wallaby side goes about its business. Given the opportunity of taking the lead on the scoreboard early in game, captain Mike Hooper spurned this for the chance to go head to head with the South American eight.
Our game has some absolutes to be followed if you want to win, having more points than the other team is one of them, I will never understand the reticence of this side to take simple kicks for goal.
This is my big bugbear and it’s somewhat rhetorical including it here, but this is getting into belligerent territory now.
While there are no doubt some green shoots in the Rennie-coached Wallabies, and presuming they are not cactus ones, thinking through and executing an appropriate game plan must surely be the first item on next seasons drawing board.