First things first let us start on a positive, 7,055 attended the game. A record for a stand-alone women’s rugby match in Australia.
The Wallaroos result, in reality, was not a surprise, although the final score line was.
The Black Ferns were just too big, too strong, too fast and did everything at speed. They have a great offload game, too. Their defence was ferocious and their line speed incredible. There are going to be some sore Australian bodies.
The Wallaroos were not given an opportunity to fire a shot.
The Australian women were always going to face an onslaught from the Black Ferns. It was their first game since the World Cup final and they will have been training full time for months. So they were no doubt itching to hit a real match.
The Walleroos were on the end of that hit. Even with multiple changes from their World Cup final team it was a juggernaut.
Apart from a couple of big runs in the first 10 minutes the Wallaroos were on the back foot from the outset. It was a wave after wave of black jerseys. But credit to the Aussie women they did not give up and kept throwing themselves at the Kiwis.
In an ominous sign they made a few handling errors and were, understandably, a bit rusty. Yet, the Black Ferns blew them away in the first half with four tries.
The next two games are in North America, as the Wallaroos take on USA next weekend and Canada a week later. They must jag a win to qualify for World Rugby’s WXV Tier 1 competition later in the year.
So what were the take outs of the Kiwi game?
The set piece generally held its own; the Wallaroos won their lineouts, although they did lose two of their 12 scrums. Even when the bench came on the scrum was still solid.
The best description of the forwards is industrious. Even though they bulked up the pack by including Kaitlan Leaney at six and Ash Marsters at seven, the Wallaroos were unable to regularly get over the advantage line. Even Grace Hamilton, who has been a regular carrier to get over the line, could not consistently make a dent. On the flip side the Kiwis did and provided front foot ball for their backs.
It was all very similar to some of the Aussie men Super Rugby teams when playing the Kiwis. (In some ways also like the Aussie sevens women’s team that has issues against the bigger and more physical teams.)
The Wallaroos just did not seem to have the size or strength to dominate in defence or attack. Unfortunately there does not appear to be alternative players available to provide that size and strength. It is painful to say but they missed Grace Kemp, who has gone to the NRLW.
As mentioned earlier, the Wallaroos backline did not have an opportunity to fire a shot.
There were very few occasions where the backline could get a roll on with front foot ball. It is hard to remember if winger Maya Stewart touched the ball while Olivia Wong seemed to only receive the ball in traffic.
The Kiwis line speed was amazing and the tackles dominant. While Carys Dallinger at fly-half has a great passing game it is better suited when the forwards provide a platform. Arabella McKenzie, fresh from a strong campaign for Harlequins in the Premier 15s, made a difference when she came on, straightening up the attack and taking the line on herself.
In the centres, the Wallaroos were constantly on the back foot, and as such missed having a big running 12 to get over the advantage line like a Samu Kerevi or Sharni Williams.
Similarly, a backline weakness is the lack of a big strong winger. At the World Cup the Wallaroos had Aussie sevens player Bienne Terita who was big and fast.
On a positive, fullback Faitala Moleka looks very good, at just 18 she is a classy player with ball-in-hand. In addition, she puts her body on the line in defence. Unfortunately, she appears to have got injured in the dying minutes of the game as she threw herself at a Kiwi diving over the line for a try. Hopefully she is available for the trip to Canada.
Like the Wallabies, the Wallaroos must live with the fact they have to play the Kiwis a lot.