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Relieved McKenzie still has plenty to do

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Online Sports Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

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Hectic: Israel Folau is felled.

Hectic: Israel Folau is felled. Photo: Getty Images

Who knew the AFL boss could control the weather? Andrew Demetriou has made his feelings known that September in Perth should be reserved for AFL matches, but the Wallabies were deprived of delivering a perfect counterpoint to the insult by torrential rain and howling wind.

What they did deliver was a physical confrontation against the Pumas, and, yes, a much-needed victory for Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. The fact it was a far-from-perfect performance should not detract from the relief the result brings. The road to deliverance must start somewhere.

After last week's mauling by the Springboks, McKenzie talked of dumbing down the game plan to eke out a win. His Argentine counterpart Santiago Phelan, meanwhile, was concocting a cocktail of pressure. The Wallabies had no peace on Saturday night. The Pumas have never been exponents of the running game, but they excel in the close exchanges. They have mastered the scrum and seek to make every tackle, breakdown collision and tactical kick count. Their execution is sometimes off, but it's a simple plan and far from dumb.

Israel Folau of the Wallabies dives over to score a try. Click for more photos

Drenched Wallabies get a win in Perth

The Wallabies have their first win of the 2013 Rugby Championship after edging the Pumas in the wet. Photo: Getty Images

The visitors rarely spread the ball wide and certainly not from the set-piece. They were content to send hard-running loose forwards to punch holes in the Wallabies' defence on the fringes. It was a damaging point of attack and ultimately successful when Juan Leguizamon crashed over in the 65th minute to bring Argentina within one point. It was as close as they got to victory but enough to make McKenzie squirm.

The Pumas thought about the strength of Israel Folau, too. No doubt the wind influenced their decision, but Argentina eschewed the high ball as five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez opted for short grubbers behind the line. Invariably they found space and the slippery conditions caused the Wallabies' back three problems.

Of course, bomb disposal is not the only facet of Folau's game that needs to be nullified. He has got drive in his legs, too, as shown when he crashed through four Puma defenders to score in the 28th minute. So rarely in the Rugby Championship has the Wallabies fullback had such room to move and he had quick ball from the breakdown, and even quicker hands from James O'Connor, to thank for the chance.

There were no such opportunities created at scrum time. From the Wallabies' seven scrum feeds in the opening 60 minutes, not once did Australian five-eighth Quade Cooper have the ball presented in front of him. The Puma pack bullied the Wallabies' supply lines. For five Tests in succession, the Wallabies have had no safe haven in the set-piece. Scott Sio being sent on early in the second half to replace James Slipper was an effort to arrest the problem. If McKenzie is prepared to drop Will Genia for Nic White, then surely the relatively simple prospect of recalling one of the best scrummagers, Benn Robinson, has crossed his mind, too.

Short-termism is the danger for Australian rugby. The game is in trouble - its popularity is waning and revenues are threatened. It's a classic catch-22 for the ARU. Long-term solutions to engage fans and climb the world rankings are the only way forward but they needed to be implemented with the expediency of a quick fix.

Armed with an expansive game plan, McKenzie is on the right track. It's just an awful long walk without a workable scrum.

Twitter - @Olympicsnut

18 comments so far

  • What "expansive game plan" Paul?!

    We should have lost that game ......but we dogged a bullet against the #10 Team in the World ......at home

    The Media has to stop masking over this with their normal hype......we have SERIOUS PROBLEMS !!

    Commenter
    Con
    Location
    QLD
    Date and time
    September 15, 2013, 7:40AM
    • "Armed with an expansive game plan, McKenzie is on the right track."

      Were we watching the same game? That was an escape act on a scale Houdini would be proud of. The tight 5 are an absolute mess, and the only back line plan seems to be to chuck it around a bit, give it to Folau, and see what happens.

      Commenter
      [(- -)] ZZZzzzz
      Date and time
      September 15, 2013, 7:40AM
      • The Wallaby scrum started to improve when the big man Timani was bought on to replace Douglas.

        Commenter
        Simon_Sez
        Location
        London
        Date and time
        September 15, 2013, 8:40AM
        • Ill jump in on this, seeing you Wallabies supporters love jumping on the All Black win or lose. You guys are a joke at the moment, that display of rugby was disgusting! If it makes you feel better, go a head and have a go at the All Blacks! The ref did this! The officials are so intimtadatied by the all black brand. Blah blah blah!

          The fact of the matter is Australian rugby is at its worst in 20+ years! Its easy to have a go at the best when your team is mud!

          Go the All Blacks! Keep entertaining Australian rugby!

          Commenter
          Bladerunner09
          Date and time
          September 15, 2013, 1:20PM
          • Its funny how poorly you AB fans are at winning - no sense of sportsmanship - just pure spite. Take a look at your booing at the games - it says more about your nation than you may think.

            Commenter
            Casual observer
            Date and time
            September 16, 2013, 4:31PM
          • @ Casual: That America's cup skipper of yours (Spittle) is a real role model for good sportsmanship eh? What was his tweet again at the kiwis: "There's no 'I' in beat the F&^kers".

            Remember a certain NZ cricketer by the name of Richard Hadlee? Every time he was in Aussie playing he was barracked with "Hadlee's a w$%ker. On every ground. Because he was good.

            Glass houses buddy. Glass houses

            Commenter
            [(- -)] ZZZzzzz
            Date and time
            September 18, 2013, 6:12PM
        • These guys might have to join the Six Nations comp, or the Heineken Cup. This one is too hard and tough for them.

          Commenter
          Hona
          Date and time
          September 15, 2013, 1:50PM
          • England second team smashed Argentina, maybe just play another Aussie team instead you might win something

            Commenter
            Steve
            Date and time
            September 15, 2013, 3:52PM
          • Hona
            who put 38 points on the ABs biatch? Wallabys? SA?

            E N G L A N D baby.

            Commenter
            himself
            Date and time
            September 15, 2013, 9:50PM
        • Blimp is an imposter coach and we urgently need to bring back Dingo or appoint Jake. He has given us four dreadful performances and we did not deserve to win any of them..One Puma has more heart than the entire dumb Wobblies set-up.

          Commenter
          Patron
          Location
          FNQ
          Date and time
          September 15, 2013, 3:02PM

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