At the World Cup the Wallaroos are doing their own northern hemisphere spring tour but in the southern hemisphere. First Scotland, then Wales, and this weekend’s quarter-final, the top dogs of women’s rugby, England.
Although Australia beat Wales, the match was just frustrating. The Wallaroos had more than a few opportunities to rack up points and win the game. The stats paint the same picture, 63 percent possession, only 96 tackles to Wales’ 245, conceded fewer penalties, won almost all their set piece, 150 runs to 70 and 386 metres run to 205.
Instead, there were a lot of errors and some poor decisions. After one error Stan commentator Sean Maloney used the most apt description ‘botched’, there was a lot of that. And to top it off, the Wallaroos kept up some consistency with another yellow card, playing the last 10 mins with 14 players. No need getting into it, everyone in both hemispheres know the Wallaroos have a discipline issue.
But in stating all that, the Wallaroos again got into the grind that was needed to guts out the win. It shows the team has real character and belief. And as the coach Jay Tregonning said pregame, their mantra was to do whatever it takes, and they did.
Some other positives: The ground’s grass was a magnificent green, there was a good crowd, it was not raining, the First Nations jersey again looked great, set piece was good, they are good over the ball getting turnovers at crucial times and Lori Cramer again kicked a couple more goals.
Just like the Scotland game the set piece held strong, even with two new locks and a debuting hooker Tania Naden on the bench. The Wallaroos won seven of eight scrums, compared to Wales’ nine from 14. The lineouts success was 16 of 17.
Grace Hamilton, player of the match, must be mentioned. For the third game in a row, she was the go-to player. There is no need to provide anything more than the stats 73 metres, 28 runs, 100 percent Tackle success, three defenders beaten. It seems she was intent on carrying this team on her shoulders to the finals. Hamilton’s approach is reflected in her comment that when she was told the goal was the quarter finals, she took that as an insult, she was not there just to compete.
Coach Tregonning has real faith in his bench, again he replaced the highly experienced Sharni Williams and Iliseva Batibasaga at the 55 minute mark. In neither game was a win already sown up.
Shannon Parry still has a magnificent tackle technique that chops players down stopping them in their tracks, even with an injury that she brought into the game she racked up 60 minutes before Piper Duck took over.
The bench has been very good. In the Welsh match it was cleared by the 60th minute. Layne Morgan has in cliché terms stood up, noting she is also the reserve half at the NSW Waratahs so in reality has not racked up a lot of game time. She again looked comfortable coming on for the last 25 minutes. Similarly, hooker Naden did not look out of place. Although she does not have the physical presence of Ash Marsters, she scrummaged well and had seven successful lineout throws.
Emily ‘Horse’ Robinson is an experienced prop to bring on who more than holds her own. Earlier in the season she seemed to be out of favour (or maybe an injury) but has been back in the mix since the O’Reilly series against New Zealand. Also towards the end of the game, when the anxiety levels were rising, she provided a calm head.
Next Sunday it is England, a serious challenge for the Wallaroos but one they are probably looking forward to. It could have been worse, facing the Kiwis for a fifth time this year would have been pretty unreasonable. If the Wallaroos were challenged by the Scots and Welsh rolling mauls, they are in for a shock against England, that is there go to. The English are brutal and clinical in their approach, the Wallaroos forwards will, again, be in for a tough day.
Facing a professional England outfit will be a bit like facing the Australian women’s cricket team or the Aussie sevens women’s team who have taken all before them. The Wallaroos must get in there and figuratively just keep swinging.
No doubt the players will leave it all out on the paddock this weekend. Potentially for a few of them this may be their final World Cup game.
To finish, one of the most positive comments about the Wallaroos on social media was from Ali Donnelly of Scrum Queens who tweeted ‘…England v Australia will be belting. Australia have the bones of a brilliant team and there are no expectations on them…’.