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Michael Hooper's Wallabies stand up to sternest test against All Blacks

Wallabies 12 All Blacks 12

Tireless: Michael Hooper charges ahead.

Tireless: Michael Hooper charges ahead. Photo: Getty Images

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper’s faith in his restructured forward pack was never clearer than in the last few minutes of the first half of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks.  Twice he rejected the option to kick for goal when awarded a penalty and instead chose to go for the scrum.

While 9-3 down, it was a risky call on a night when the wet weather meant there would hardly be a plethora of tries; but on the second occasion it was more positive risk.

 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

That being because the All Blacks pack had just lost loose-head prop Wyatt Crockett after he was yellow-carded for offside in front of their own line meaning (after Ben Franks came on as Crockett's scrum replacement) the All Blacks had to surrender blindside breakaway Jerome Kaino and be one player down – a valuable player, too.

Hooper’s faith in the scrum was justified. From man of the match and loosehead prop James Slipper, to hooker Nathan Charles, tighthead Sekope Kepu and second-rowers Rob Simmons and Sam Carter; to the back row of Hooper, Scott Fardy and No.8 Wycliff Palu – and the reserves who came on for them.

Sure, the Wallabies did not dominate in set piece, but for the most part they had parity. Their intent to pack low and tight against undoubted pressure from their opposition was more promising than what many expected in a pack that had lost four front-rowers – three hookers and one prop – in the lead-up to the Bledisloe Cup opener.

So Hooper’s call may well have been a master stroke, had the Wallabies made the best of their possession from the scrum their captain had called for when granted the penalty; especially when so close to the posts a converted try offered a 10-9 scoreline.

Alas, it was not to be and some poor handling and lack of calm under pressure cost them the chance, and in turn  the All Blacks held  on to a 9-3 lead at half-time after Kurtley Beale’s penalty attempt after a third penalty was awarded  hit the posts. A lot of mauling was to be expected with both teams  playing in tight in the wet weather, and in turn  fatigue and pressure mounted.

The All Blacks back row of Kaino, captain and No. 7 Richie McCaw and No.8 Keiran Read was certainly impressive though – McCaw showing he was far from a spent force as some tried to suggest in recent weeks.

McCaw didn’t waste time in proving  that, forcing  a turnover from Beale after the No. 10 took a high ball in the seventh minute in the Wallabies half.

He also excelled in shutting down the inside channel from many Wallabies attacks. But Read and Kaino were splendid, too.

For the Wallabies, the back row of Hooper, Fardy and Palu, who play 70 minutes, were tireless. Fardy in particular showed a lot of energy and intent in his contest for ball in the maul and lineout – even if in the latter he ran foul of referee Jaco Peyper on occasion. He emptied the tank in his 66 minutes until Scott Higginbotham came on.

While the All Blacks line-out was superb, the Wallabies lineout for the most part went well. Charles showed impressive accuracy with his throws – but it was still a lineout that was not without error too, such as with one throw-in by Charles in the 35th minute  and another in the 64th minute when the All Blacks stole it fair and square.

13 comments so far

  • Put Beale at 12, Foley at 10 and AAC at 13. The Waratah combination will work here.

    Date and time
    August 17, 2014, 12:35AM
    • Phipps 9, Foley 10, Tamoua 12, AAC 13, Folau wing, Speight Wing, Beale 15


      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 1:36PM
  • Not quite sure why we're trumpeting a draw so much against a team down to 14 for a quarter of the game in levelling conditions. One of those yellow's was seriously questionable.

    Don't think the AB's will be too worried next week.

    Date and time
    August 17, 2014, 7:35AM
    • @ Jackal, what nationality are you? Just curious.

      Old Hickory
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 9:21PM
    • Yeah but not bad for the thirds. Any AFL or NRL would run rings round these boring lumbering
      blunderheads......which is why real rugby or AFL is about skilled athletes not boring bums up scrums

      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 9:30PM
  • The AB's will be very nervous because they know now the Wallabies can play absolutely appallingly, in pouring rain with numerous amateurish mistakes and still match it with them. Even when the All Blacks pull out their special occasion haka.
    The Wallabies have nothing to fear but success.

    Date and time
    August 17, 2014, 10:14AM
    • Or the wallabies will be asking themselves - how didn't we win with 65% of possession, 65% of territory, with 2 of their players in the bin, what do we have to do to breach that defence?

      Shane D
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 8:07PM
    • Well they can hardly lose any silverware can they?

      Don't think the All Blacks are nervous mate, more frustrated they didn't put the Wallabies away in the first half.

      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      August 18, 2014, 10:58AM
  • I always said, When you give a little man a bit of authority, he tries to be center stage. Piper was disgraceful, always has been always will be, unlike the ref In the SA v Argentina game where the ref spoke to, and helped the players in condition the same as at Sydney.

    Pedantic, through and through.

    However, I must say to my Wallaby mad grandson (Taine, yes named after Taine Randell, former AB captain) Your Wallaby team is playing 50% better rugby than they have for the past 5 years. It's great to see them back again.

    Date and time
    August 17, 2014, 2:04PM
    • The whole of NZ is rattled hence the derogatory comments because that's all they can muster in their defence. Time to get used to losing. Commonwealth sevens fail. Junior World Cup fail. Women's World Cup fail. Super rugby fail.

      Jervis Bay
      Date and time
      August 17, 2014, 10:55PM

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