Australia 12 v 32 New Zealand, Match Review.

Well, were to start?   With an expletive you say?   Been there done that!   More productively, let’s start with the quick wrap:

First, the media seem to have taken leave of their senses, and frankly I think that a lot of the criticism directed at the Wallabies by the Sydney papers was way over the top.   Any plausible version of events has to factor in Australia looking like comfortable winners until Elsom went off, and the ABs subsequently scoring two tries directly attributable to the absence of a forward.  

Second, on that sensitive subject, I actually think Kaplan had a pretty good game, but I will admit that Elsom’s sending-off seemed anything but clear to me.   I think, personally, that it probably was a penalty but that you should not send people off for a probable penalty.   However, that is not to absolve Elsom, since I am certain he wouldn’t have been sent off if he hadn’t talked back just a few minutes earlier.  

I’m essentially reserving judgement until after at least this weekend, and in fact, eternal optimist that I am, I am already looking forward to the next Bledisloe.  But now some more thoughts on the last:

Forwards

Scrum

Elsom’s sending off was surely the most important moment of the day, although it hardly excuses our unseemly lack of composure for the rest of game.  Very prominently, our scrum was not experienced enough I don’t think this is a big deal, although, I couldn’t, and don’t, understand why Paul and Baxter weren’t sent on as soon as Sheperdson started rolling backwards.  As it was, we looked much stronger with Jeremy Paul on, so it probably isn’t fair to blame just Shepherdson.  It is only fair, however, to point out that Holmes had a magnificent game all around the park and took nary a step backwards in the scrums, and that Paul also was very good when he came on.  With Blake, Paul and Holmes I think we have a perfectly good front-row capable of matching any in the world.  But clearly, someone from the Wallabies camp will be down in Melbourne this Saturday to watch Tatufu Polota-Nau playing for Australia A.  

Lineout

What happened in the line-outs is beyond me.   I’ve sung my part in the chorus that praised McIsaac’s throwing, but his game can best be summed up by pointing out that he has jammed open the fast-closing door to Polota-Nau’s RWC hopes.  Also, Connolly’s bizarre strategy of not having any jumpers or indeed second-rowers on the bench was made to look, well, bizarre, as I thought Vickerman, outstanding as generally was, was running into the ground in the end.   I guess here we can just hope that they get this part of the game together in a hurry.  

Loose Play

Generally, we have not been hitting the breakdowns perfectly, and we certainly didn’t in Christchurch.  In fact they were a disaster, and hopefully Fava will make a difference.  If he doesn’t, Ken Parish may be right and we may have to recall Phil Waugh but surely at the expense of Fava not Elsom, which will leave us without a genuine number 8 again.  

But, we did maul it, and effectively how happy I was to see the Wallabies maul the ball 20 yards against the All Blacks!  Let’s hope this is something we are really going to build on, since if it rains in the RWC strong mauling will be a real advantage against most teams, and an essential survival skill against England, France, NZ and even Wales and Argentina.   Happily, South Africa will be excellent training partners.

Backs

Defence

I don’t have that much to say here, except that those two Leon MacDonald breaks, even if he lined up forwards, were disastrous.   Whatever happened He above only knows, but we cannot miss first tackles, not ever but especially not ever against one of the world’s best ball-runners.  

Rogers, unfortunately for him, really didn’t much of a chance to show off, and although I have been increasingly impressed with him I am very eager to see how Giteau goes.   Presumably he will fit right in ;).   But he has real competition, which is a good thing in our otherwise apparently settled backline.

Attack

Latham’s try, and Roger’s part in it as well, was of course a pearler.  Unfortunately, Leon MacDonald quickly found other options besides kicking it back to us, but that was a great moment for all Aussie fans.        

I think we need something diffferent in terms of attack, at least as a fall-back, because we should have, even going backwards, been able to maintain more pressure just with our backs than we did.   But basically, the forwards couldn’t do enough to give our backs a level playing field from the set-pieces and we just keep turning over in attack and missing tackles in defence.   The result was no sustained pressure, at least not after Elsom went off, and the All Blacks are certainly too good for us to do that.

In All

We were comprehensively beaten once Elsom went off, and ‘dems de breaks, so we have a lot of work still to do.   A powerful reality check, but I’m sure that the All Black brains trust won’t be sitting back on the strength of it.   Let’s see how we do with a stronger scrum against the Boks, and then how we regroup for the rematch against the All Blacks.

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Paul W
15 years ago

I agree that the criticism has been over the top. The scrum didn’t perform well but is not irredeemable. The lineouts were oddly ineffective, and the ABs did well to minimise the need for them in the first place. Fava’s inclusion against the Boks will be interesting. I still think Rogers can misread offense and create gaps that good teams will exploit.

If you get a chance, though it might be painful, you might want to check out this footage of George Greegan being unceremoniously slammed by Ali Williams.

patemi
patemi
15 years ago

Poor Gregan! I would have enjoyed that if I was a kiwi, although as a coach I might have pointed out that by that time the ball was already a meter or so closer to Ali’s not-far-off tryline than Ali himself!

I am just pointing out that there is (obviously) not going to be a preview of tonight’s game from me, and quite possibly no review. I should be back on track next week.

Fwiw, I do think the Wallabies will win easily – but I am really looking forward to seeing how the scrum goes. That Bok front-row would stand up to just about any front-row ever put together, so I don’t expect us to ‘win’ the scrums. But if we can just stand still, particularly Sheperdson, then that’s a big step forward from last week, and also a guarantee that if our heads are right, we’ll stand up to the Kiwi cauliflower brigade next week. None of this will be hurt by Paul’s return to the starting line-up, and I am keen to see how Sean Hardman goes out there.

I know I prattle on about the Australian scrum, but I think it is the most important flaw in our line-up. The last few tests have made me start wondering if our breakdowns aren’t threatening to take over, especially since I think we are now capable of putting out a front row (Blake Paul Holmes; Baxter) that will face up squarely to anyone in the world. This SA team has been selected to be pretty good at the breakdown, or at least quick to it, which is half the work – almost as if by chance ;) – I’ll be interested to note how that goes, too.

And of course I’ll be interested to see how the Brumbies combination (now Fava Smith Gregan Larkham Giteau Mortlock Gerrard!) goes. I’ll be even more interested next week when presumably they will be reconstituted.

Finally, it is worth noting that Palu apparently starred for Australia A against Fiji, as did Ioane and Shepherd with the last two scoring hat-trick and Ioane best on ground. I would really like to see Palu getting another shot, and I’ve a lot of respect for Ioane and Shepherd, who are happily young enough to be around for another dozen years.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Since Australia isn’t playing, I don’t have a full post on tonight’s game. But I do want to say that until tonight’s game is finished I don’t dare predict much anything about next week’s game, and even then I might not!

I suspect that the ABs will romp it in, as does the betting. Obviously, my heart will be with the Boks! In particular, if the Boks can win, it will mean that the NZ forwards are at least as vulnerable as they seemed in the first 25 minutes at Christchurch, and will obviously be a strong factor in support of the ‘Australia were completely in control but just got mentally derailed by a bit of bad luck/poor discipline’ school of analysis, to which I (obviously again) partially hold.

If the ABs do win comfortably, as is likely, then it is worth watching the scrum and breakdowns – they will clearly (imho) dominate the breakdowns, but if they can’t dominate the scrums then that is very good news for Australia.

But my tip? Fwiw, ABs to have a clear but not enormous advantage up tight in everything but the scrums, throw it wide often and score often. However they will struggle in the scrums and SA will knock at least one try and a couple of penalties over for that: NZ 38 – 19 SA, but it could easily be 70-9.

Wildcard? Someone definitely gets sent off – will the referee pluck up his courage and pick Richie McCaw? ;)

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Well with the kiwis dominating now up front there seems little hope of an SA revival, and it seems that we can take the lesser quantity of joy from last week’s game. Sigh…