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Five things we learnt from the slippery Bledisloe Cup opener

Friendly fire: Israel Folau receives treatment for a facial cut.

Friendly fire: Israel Folau receives treatment for a facial cut. Photo: Getty Images

1. Sinking the boot in

Much has been written about kicking in Australian rugby this year. The lingering legacy of Jake White’s stint at the Brumbies is tactics that value field position above all else. Kicking in rugby is not the problem. Bad kicking is.

 Israel Folau puts on a big fend. Click for more photos

Wallabies hold All Blacks in Bledisloe I

It was a case of close, but no cigar as the Wallabies failed to punish the All Blacks for two yellow cards and a host of opportunities. Photo: AFP

The All Blacks put boot to ball more often than any of the other top-tier nations but are rarely, if ever, a boring team to watch. Intent is the key. The Wallabies merely booted the ball down field while the All Blacks kicked to a contest. One team was happy to relieve pressure, the other wanted to create it. Time and again Israel Folau was crowded with deft kicks and high balls. The fullback forced bad passes, was held up in mauls and even collided with Nic White. It was a tactic that reaped the visitors great reward.

2. Wallabies crowd is not the same as Waratahs

Who would have thought it a year ago, but fans in Sydney may just be more passionate about the Waratahs than the Wallabies. The official crowd for the Bledisloe Test was 6000 more than the near 62,000 at the Super Rugby final at the same venue a fortnight ago. It was nothing compared to the ocean of blue supporting the Waratahs.

There was an early rendition of Waltzing Matilda but no equivalent of the spontaneous chanting of “NSW!” that reverberated around ANZ Stadium in the Super Rugby final. Both teams have been starved of success in recent years but there was extra passion for the Waratahs. Was it because they had earned the right to host the Super Rugby final whereas the Wallabies had merely scheduled a match against the All Blacks?

3. Slippery when wet

Rugby may be the game they play in heaven, but controlling the weather is still beyond them. Before the game, the rain in Sydney transformed the All Blacks from warm favourites to an unbackable Black Caviar. The Wallabies may have changed their style of play over the past year, scoring tries and racking up seven successive wins, but a big scalp still eludes them in the wet.  

The monstering at the hands of Ireland at the World Cup in 2011 and the shock loss to Scotland in 2012 are just two examples of the Wallabies slipping up in the wet. The only exception was the narrow win over Argentina in Perth last year. A draw against New Zealand is a step in the right direction but beating the best when the conditions are slippery is the next hurdle for the Wallabies. They have never beaten the All Blacks under lights in New Zealand and they need little reminder that next year’s World Cup is England.

4. The Beale deal

There were many good reasons why Kurtley Beale was picked at five-eighth. Under Robbie Deans the Wallabies were geared more to countering the opposition’s strength rather than asking questions of them. It was a strategy that reaped great success against the one-dimensional Springboks but left the Wallabies floundering against the All Blacks, who had a multi-headed attack.

The selection of Beale confirmed a change of tack under Ewen McKenzie. But as any ambitious politician will tell you, to be a success you must have a platform. For much of the first half, Beale was denied that. The forwards were competitive at the breakdown and held their own in the set piece but they did not provide continuity of possession or penetrating runs over the gain line. That changed towards the end of the first half and second-half and it was no coincidence that Beale was more influential. However, the All Blacks’ defence was good enough to prevent the match-winning try.

5. The Wallabies need to relax

There were many moments throughout the Test when the play by the Wallabies was marred by what commentators would call schoolboy errors. There was Folau catching the ball before stepping out, Nathan Charles in front of the kicker from a re-start and Matt Toomua and Wycliff Palu colliding going for the same ball.

These appear to be elementary errors that none of those players committed throughout the Super Rugby season but they were created by pressure. It was the fear that to beat an opponent with 17 wins on the trot, everything needed to be perfect. It didn’t and it wasn’t and they came all so close to winning.

40 comments so far

  • Wallabies (and especially Beale) we're too lateral. That intercept could/should have been a try for the All Blacks. They were sweating on the express ball because it was the one dimensional game plan (get it to Izzie). You can win games without backs but you can't win games without forwards. Go forward first. Foley would have been a better choice in the wet weather.

    Commenter
    Gymboot
    Date and time
    August 16, 2014, 11:23PM
    • I knew Kuridrani's direct running would be missed. So easily for the ABs' slide defence to continually round us us.

      Commenter
      Tevita's kaivata
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 8:30AM
    • Ashley Cooper never got the ball in space. Kuridrani wouldn't have done any better.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Kiama
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 11:10AM
  • Stephen, can I add a 6th point? Rugby is a game that has breached its formal limits and is now as unplayable as it is unwatchable.

    Commenter
    Melgibson
    Date and time
    August 16, 2014, 11:34PM
    • Well Mell, not sure what your game of choice is but I bet it is NRL, AFL, cricket, gridiron, ice hockey, baseball, gaelic football or one of the many other games that are very popular in small pockets in just a few countries in some far off corner of the world. Like the yanks calling their baseball finals "The World Series ", just so they can feel good. All these sports can't compare to the growth in Rugby Union, which since the first World Cup in 1987 has quickly risen to the stage it is now played in over 120 countries, the World Cup is now the 3rd biggest sporting event behind the soccer World Cup and the Olympics. I don't like soccer and don't watch it but I have to admit it is "the world game". I suggest you acknowledge that rugby union is huge on the world stage no matter what you think of it.

      Commenter
      Coach's Comment
      Location
      Sunshine Coast
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 8:05AM
    • Rugby is a real, world wide game. If 1,2,3,4,5 kick is all your brain can cope with, then stick to it, but other, more flexible, intelligent people choose to differ. In 90 countries, not four.

      Commenter
      Yabba88
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 8:31AM
  • 6th lesson - McCabe is not a Test player

    Commenter
    Stephen
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 17, 2014, 1:06AM
    • Disagree. McCabe would probably be very good Outside Centre. Mistake is to play these guys out of position. Go back to your selections Link. Look for established combinations and stop fiddling.

      Commenter
      Cross
      Location
      Wahroonga
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 9:24AM
    • McCabe is certainly not a winger. The Honey Badger would have been useful last night!!

      Commenter
      bear54
      Location
      The Outback
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 9:35AM
    • @ Stephan... Yep buddy, neither is Skelton. He was blowing like a bull after only a few minutes out there, apart from not being able to do what he usually does.

      Commenter
      Muzzo
      Location
      Orange
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 9:47AM

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