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Big men Folau and North shine as goal-kicking woes cruel Wallabies

Superhuman effort: Israel Folau.

Superhuman effort: Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images

Israel Folau joined rugby at a fortuitous time. Former league players like the ball in hand, the 13-a-side code demands it, and the former NRL star and AFL poster boy joined the Waratahs at a point when keeping possession was given a premium over finding field position.

But Tests are a different ball game. The most damaging ball runner in Super Rugby this year barely saw the ball in the first 30 minutes. Opportunities are few and far between at international level and wingers must finish. Both Folau in his first Test, and the equally impressive George North of the British and Irish Lions, did just that.

They both had two try-scoring opportunities in the first half. Folau collected his brace, while North snared one and was only denied his second by desperate goal-line defence by the Wallabies winger. North and Folau have many similarities. They are built like monster trucks, have the speed of a Porsche with the manoeuvrability of a Mini.

Alex Cuthbert races in to score. Click for more photos

Wallabies suffer first Test heartbreak

Kurtley Beale's slip while attempting a match-winning penalty ultimately proved the difference as the Lions took a 1-0 series lead. Photo: Getty Images

Folau's first try was a standard finish for a Test flyer. The genius was with Will Genia, whose vision and skill set the No.14 on his way to the try line. The second try showed the difference between competent finisher and bona fide danger man. If ever an individual try could be scored at the end of a passing movement, this was it.

Fellow debutant Ben Mowen gave Folau the room to move, but there were three defenders still to beat. If it was a game of touch football, Folau still would have gone close to scoring, but in full contact, he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.

It was a perfect riposte to North's blistering run which featured one of the best in-and-aways seen at Suncorp Stadium to defeat Berrick Barnes. Folau is not the only man on the flanks NRL clubs are chasing.

There are many ways to create and find space on the field. Quade Cooper does it with bullet passes, Kurtley Beale with a jink and acceleration. Jonah Lomu uniquely viewed space and defenders as one and the same.

Folau creates space just by being on the field. He is a mixture of Lomu and Sonny Bill Williams without quite mastering the attacking skills of either. Looks are deceiving with Folau. Like Lomu he shares a Tongan heritage, but he rarely bulldozes defences. The Wallabies winger starts beating defenders two or three metres before he reaches the gain line. There's the stutter step and the change of gait, designed to deny the defender a proper shot. If the tackler is slightly off, Folau uses his size to break free, or attracts another defender.

That's where the Sonny Bill offload comes in, the nonchalant flip out the back of the hand. It was rarely seen on Saturday night, but it is there and the Lions should be wary.

Folau's heroics counted for nothing. He was there to turn half chances into full-blown opportunities, but could not compensate for the half-gap measures caused by a crippling injury toll and wayward goal-kicking.

51 comments so far

  • Nooooooooooooo, Lealifano injured in the first minute and McCabe comes on and misses 2 straight up tackles & drops a pass then gets stretchered off..GOOD ONE ROBBIE DEANS!!

    Date and time
    June 22, 2013, 10:57PM
    • That's Christian Lealiifano's fault (tackling technique), Pat McCabe's and then Hooper's fault NOT Deans......I didn't see him miss any tackles?!

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 12:08AM

    Date and time
    June 22, 2013, 10:58PM
    • Agree. OConnor terrible. Out of position. Should be retained as wing or fullback. McCabe dreadful. Can't pass and was "meant to" be a good defender. Isn't even in the run on side at the brumbies! Barnes - too many crap kicks. Should have our own North clone in Morahan. Or Godwin from the force or Tapuai. Someone who can actually pass the ball and doesn't try inane chip kicks all of the time!

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 9:27AM
    • I agree with Palu, Barnes and McCabe and would add Simmons to that list. He may be good at jumping but he is useless (almost comically so) in all other aspects. His standing looking at the ball that was clearly out of the ruck was top-shelf Simmons. Not sure what AAC did so wrong and I think we need to give O'Connor another chance. Obviously the kid was under pressure to perform and losing Lealiifano and gaining kicking duties one minute into the match wouldn't have helped

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 12:40PM
  • The Wallabies for decades have often lost games due to inadequate test level goalkicking. O'Connor was our designated kicker, and again failed to deliver, as sadly did our replacement kicker.
    Why can British teams and NZ and Sth Africa so consistently beat us at goal kicking? Rugby League kickers are so much better than Australian Union kickers who are also now prfossionals....why????

    Date and time
    June 22, 2013, 11:07PM
    • Champ i am 100% with you. Its ridiculous how aussie kickers cannot master the goal kicking. Aussie nrl players can convert to being a designated goal kicker over an off season(albeit a smaller ball, Thurston was not a kicker at Bulldogs or Cowboys -Josh Hannay, nor was Benji Marshall-scott Prince)but the union players cant seem to be bothered to master the skill set.

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 2:26AM
    • Hear hear!

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 2:28AM
    • Exactly. The goal kicking was an embarassment for test level - or any level for that matter. You can't win big games by throwing away so many points. Four penalties and a conversion missed? That's a lot of points gone begging.

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 8:32AM
    • Actually, Leali'ifano was our designated goal kicker. When mentally preparing for a game, you don't anticipate your primary goal kicker leaving the game in the first minute.

      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 10:31AM

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