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.
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.