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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.