It was a friendly using the dirt trackers in Australia vs USA Eagles, but what did we learn from the Wallabies’ 47-10 win?
1. We’re ripe for a pool upset
With a game-plan that relies on ball in hand getting over the gain line, an opposition with a good rush defence and havoc at the breakdown are a mix Cheika’s Wallabies find hard to handle. Just imagine if at half time with the score 10-14 the Eagles had the scoring ability of say, a Fiji? I did and it wasn’t pretty.
The Wallabies need to be able to think their way out of these situations within a half of rugby and not need a spray at half time to sort things out. These tactics – or a team willing to kick-chase and pressure (like New Zealand) – are two problems that the Wallabies should be able to work their way around.
With Giteau on the field I would have expected more in this regard. The lack of verbal leadership in the forwards was also noticeable. At least we have those extra matches before the RWC to sort this out. Oh wait….
2. Sean McMahon is a beast
At times during the match he was a one man forward pack, demolishing the septics in both attack and defence (he ran 70 hard fought metres on his own). If today was an audition for the back row bench spot he nailed it.
While I’m in awe of his beast mode I don’t think he solves the problem we have of a tall bopper to partner the Pooper. The truth is that between McMahon and Gill we have a backup Pooper that most nations would kill for; the problem is that we can only play one pairing on at a time.
Conversely, Cliffy Palu looked very underdone and it’s hard to justify how he should be occupying a spot that either Chibba Hanson or Nic White would be filling in the squad.
3. The offside line is optional
While the most important point is that the Wallabies didn’t deal with the rush D well, Jaco Peyper’s take on the offside line was at times ludicrous. The “hindmost foot” seemed to be that of the player on the Wallabies side of their attacking ruck. I’ll be kind and say it was the extra NFL markings throwing Jaco off.
Another ruling refs are all over the place on are defenders swinging around the side of a ruck McCaw style and kicking/obstructing attacking ball. Joubert is about the only ref I’ve seen call it. Joubers also occasionally picks up defenders “taking the space” (alleluia). Peyper just sticks his hands up in the air touch-down Jesus style and pipes ‘play-on’.
4. A 9-10 pattern emerges
The timing of Will Genia’s injection into the game certainly helped him as the Wallabies had put a lot of work into the yank pack – but full points to Will for playing those cards well. Sanchez looked dangerous. The way he set the team off on that coast-to-coast try with a pick up and miss pass in traffic to Henry Speight reminded us of the quality he has.
If only he didn’t still have that skip step before each clearance. Regardless, Foley looked comfortable playing with Genia. Perhaps he’ll become the “finisher” at 9 that Toomua has at 10.
Speaking of 10, Foley has surely grabbed the starting jersey. Despite the lack of love he receives in player rankings, the truth is he was involved, if not instrumental, in the majority of the Wallabies tries and then nailed 6/7 shots at goal from all over the shop. Those voting Cooper above him need to lay off the crack pipe.
5. Sweet home Chicago?
I’m not one of those sneering at the fact we didn’t fill Soldier Field (even though we tried to give it a nudge here at G&GR). The All Black brand is a powerful international one and pulling 20,000 to a meaningless friendly in the states isn’t to be scoffed at.
However, if the idea of this was to be a money maker, you have to wonder if it accomplished its mission?