Whilst the Kiwi game did not start according to the New Zealand script, the second half went to script with the Kiwis taking out the game comfortably. The cliché ‘a game of two halves’ is an understatement.
The irritating issue for the Wallaroos, as true as it maybe, is they are probably getting sick of the words ‘gallant’ and ‘competitive’ after a loss.
It does not help much but the first 30 or so minutes was outstanding, with some of the best rugby by any Australian team this season. For the Wallaroos, while they can ponder the what ifs and if onlys, at the end of the day you can only play the hand you have been given. Then brush yourself off and plan for the next game.
Before touching on the game against Scotland, a couple of completely unrelated World Cup takeaways.
Women’s rugby is quite different to the men’s game, possession is vital. While the men’s game can often involve a lot of kicking and playing without the ball, in the women’s game possession is king (or queen). As was seen in the Australia-New Zealand game, in the first half the Wallaroos kept possession and got points. When possession turned to the Kiwis they got the scores.
The Wallaroo winger Bienne Terita can play a bit, to run through Portia Woodman twice is some effort. No surprise some of the best players on both sides were the sevens pros – Stacey Fluhler, Portia Woodman, Ruby Tui, Sarah Hirini, Bienne Terita and Sharni Williams.
Wallaroos half Iliseva Batibasaga at 37 years old is the oldest player at the World Cup.
The Northern Hemisphere kickers get a lot more distance than their Southern Hemisphere counterparts.
As the Wallaroos may not have the fitness of the more professional teams, the use and timing of the bench is critical. Bench changes need to be timed to ensure there is no drop off in effort and intensity.
While expected it was still surprising the amount of media coverage and content (MSM and social media) from the Northern Hemisphere on the World Cup.
The next stop is Whangarei
For a bit of context on Scotland and the Wallaroos, forget the World Cup standings. Both have lost their last seven matches. Scotland lost all five of this season’s Six Nations matches and recently lost to the USA and Wales on the weekend.
For the Wallaroos, since their last win against Fijiana in May, they lost to Japan, lost four times to New Zealand and once each to Canada and the USA. A bit of pressure on both teams for a win.
Scotland are a pretty unknown opposition for the Wallaroos. While Australia has beaten Scotland in their two previous matches there is no recent form guide.
The last game was at the 2002 World Cup in Barcelona where the Wallaroos won 30-0. Also the Wallaroos have not played a Northern Hemisphere team since the last World Cup in 2017 when they got a win over Ireland in Belfast.
Despite the final scoreline against New Zealand, assuming there are no injuries, it would be difficult to make too many changes to the starting Wallaroos line-up. Special mention must be made of the forwards who generally matched up to the Kiwis in the set piece. The Wallaroos won nine of 11 scrums and seven of eight lineouts.
It is probably no coincidence the lineout functioned well with Sera Naiqama back in the side. That was one of her real strengths playing for the Tahs this year.
The scrum penalty in the 50th minute on a Kiwi feed was also a highlight. Unfortunately, it was soon followed by two yellow cards.
The tackle efficiency was not too bad at 84 per cent – actually, pretty good, considering how much pressure they were under in the second half. Discipline is a bit of an issue for the Wallaroos, with 12 penalties conceded and two yellow cards.
Scotland will be up for the game after going down to Wales after full-time to a penalty goal. In reality Wales did play the better over the 80 minutes but they give away a lot of penalties.
Scotland are meant to have some real stars in their backline to keep an eye on, including winger Rhona Lloyd, centre Emma Orr and fullback Chloe Rollie. So, the defence of Williams and Georgina Friedrichs will be tested but they are more than up to it. Williams in particular had a terrific game and seems to be the answer to 12.
The ruck should be exciting with 50-plus cap Jade Konkel-Roberts a standout at No.8 up against workhorse Grace Hamilton and jackal Emily Chancellor. That will be an interesting battle.
Saturday’s match is going to be a blockbuster and critical for both teams to get to the quarter-finals and for one team to break a losing streak.
Here’s to the Wallaroos getting a win over the Scots.