Match review of Australian Wallabies vs Scotland 2009

Discovered: a new way to lose

Discovered: a new way to lose

Many people have “anxiety dreams”; for example that they’re on a bus naked, or sitting an exam with no preparation. This morning, the Wallabies awoke to find that their anxiety dream had come true – they had lost to Scotland.

I struggle to think of an occasion when I’ve seen a side with so much possession and so many attacking opportunities, against an opponent with no meaningful attack, lose with a miserly 8 points to show for their effort. The Wallabies even managed to actually fall over the try-line twice more, but on their backs. That’s innovation! If you planned to throw a match as part of a betting scandal, this would have been far too elaborate a route.

For the past decade we’ve been used to seeing the Wallabies get beaten in the pack, relying on the attacking skill of the backline to keep them competitive. On Saturday, Australia’s forwards would repeatedly bludgeon their way deep into the Scottish half, for the backline to show that they didn’t have slightest clue what to do on attack, other than to herd themselves into the far touchline. Much better to hoof the ball aimlessly at the Scots to hope for an opportunity to…, hoof the ball aimlessly again.

What was most painful to watch was the mental disintegration of the Wallabies, as they slowly imploded in a pressure cooker all of their own making. Each time they blew yet another opportunity in a new, ingenious way (witness QC’s cut out pass across an unmarked man on the line – a doozy) you could see them think that there must be some invisible force anti-Wallaby force getting stronger as they got closer to the line.

This invisible force does exist, it’s between their ears.

And it didn’t exist stronger for anyone than Matt Giteau last night. While I don’t know what was going through his head for the rest of the game (like when just before half time on the run 10m out from the Scots line and snatching at a ridiculous drop goal on the run), I do know what he was thinking before that fateful final conversions to win the game: “Shit, this is on my wrong side, I can’t get it”.

It’s unfair to put a team’s failings on any one man. But when that man puts his hand up for a leadership role (as Vice Captain) and demands that he’s the key attacking playmaker (at 10) and then spectacularly under-delivers throughout the year, then surely there’s a price with that unfulfilled responsibility?

The fact is that with Sookface Barnes out with injury (as usual) there is no other option. As bad as Gits has been playing, it’s still better composed than the erratic Quade Cooper.

This “what option?” question is endemic in the Wallabies. Change the coach? To whom? Get a line-out lock in? What line-out lock? The unfortunate truth is that radical short term changes just aren’t viable. All the Wallabies can do is learn from their errors, continue to build on their strengths and believe that success will come.

As dire and bizarre as this game was, it once again demonstrated the hardening of the pack. In most normal games of rugby the key ingredient to long term success is dominance at the set piece and go forward in the loose. Apart from the lineout, the Wallabies were once again the dominant eight.

Want another positive spin to help the despair? Think of the current Wallabies squandering of attacking opportunities as resistance training. Like cycling with a brake on. With the Wallabies are currently scoring one try for every 4 times the try-line is wide open, just imagine the scorelines when the brake is taken off!

Feel free to release the brake any time now Robbie……

  • hillston hog

    Simply not good enough. No excuses. The performance of this team under Deans is unacceptable.
    I agree with Dwyer (for once) – Stop paying them. They are professionals who get paid to do a job – win games.
    No win – no pay.
    Dingo, a tip for you – pick your best team every game.
    Its going to be a tough few weeks for an aussie living in Scotland.

    • Ozrugbynut

      I’d support a push to pay players based on performance to provide that extra motivation, as currently there are no negative consequences other than demotion when we don’t get the results. And even then, there are some players who know they are indispensible.

      The cash should be there as a commission for success, not a salary. This is a real world solution. It mightn’t be popular with RUPA, the players and player management and it will be a shit fight to get up, but all parties must come to terms with the bigger picture – the survival of rugby union in Australia.

      This might have sounded alarmist a few days ago, but we’ve just lost to Scotland.

      We need to ensure we have an edge in attitude as well as capability if we’re going to scale the heights again.

      Thumb up if you think its part of the solution.

      • JayInTheBay

        I wonder if the Scots are on a win bonus. they certainly defended as if they were.

        • DanKell

          Believe me, no member of that team will need to buy a drink for themselves for many a moon :)

  • JJJ

    What can I say? I’m still gutted. This is the only rugby site I can bear to look at just yet because I know what I’m going to see on all the others. I don’t know what the answer is, though fixing the lineout quick-smart will help a lot. You can’t plan for the kind of season Giteau’s had though. Who could’ve foreseen it?

    I wonder if Deans has realized that our boys just don’t have the natural talent to play what’s in front of them when they’re this low on confidence (or ever?). They need a pile of set-plays drilled into them until they start scoring non-gift tries. Having said that, the backline hasn’t had the best run in terms of building familiarity with their combinations. Barnes was the glue that held it together, which is a huge problem given how brittle he is.

    • Dirty Ducks

      I am not qualified by coaching credentials nor a high achieving personal record of note in playing the game. As ‘punter’ and fan I got up and watched the test and I have 2 observations in that game (there were plenty of others but these two are the most important in my view).

      Firstly, as a team they came up with the answer to taking the ‘next step’ in the last 3 minutes of that match. Composed, patient and executed a try to give themselves a chance to win. They used the right style of play to build pressure on the try line.

      However, and secondly, they seem to use this style in the midfield (wrong style of play in that field position). This is very static. Where has our dynamic midfield pick and drive, support, pick and drive play gone? Dynamic movements shorten time frames for the opposition. Mark (Chisholm) and Dean (Horwill) are been criticized in the public for having little presence. I think both are very capable and can match it with the best in the world, though this one piece of static play is making the Wallabies very easy to defend against (naturally less tries are being scored), and these two are going to wear the criticism, for lack of pressence here. In turn you will see the backs have more time and the opposition defense less to slide effectively.

      The line out is an issue but can be fixed. For me it is mainly that lack of sharpness in attacking through the ruck in the midfield position which is missing. If executed well the backs will get their confidence back.

  • Sully

    Fix the lineout? We had 70% possession!! how much do we need to win!!

  • Ironically, I wrote a piece last week for my Coaching Tip of the Week on “Scoring from an Overlap”. It will appear in the next week or so. It details all of the facets of the task and identifies correct technique in each of them. This is what rugby coaches do!
    P.S. Amongst other things it says, “NEVER throw a cut-out pass!”

    • Juan Cote

      Does it mention anything about attacking from such a depth that the defence is under no pressure to make decisions and can keep sliding its way across the field?

      • El Dommo

        Its University Premier colts…HA!

        Rasini’s first rule of coaching overlaps though…the ball will be the man everytime if you use quick hands. NO CUT OUTS!

    • Bobas

      But seriously if that QC pass had been thrown on half way it wouldn’t have been called forward.

      The ball always moves (forward) up feild with a long pass when the thrower is moving forward.

      The pass was backwards out of the hands and hence shouldn’t be called a forward pass.

      The reff did miss one obvious forward pass pass the threw and used the make up call on that one.

      • El Dommo

        did you drop your glasses bobas, and conveniently miss every replay?

        it was 3 metres forward at least.

        • Bobas

          When you’re running 2mps forwards and throw a ball flat in the air next to you it will travel roughly (give or take depending on the wind and its resistance) 2mps forward until gravity takes it to the ground.

          If you throw it backwards it can still go forward. Despite not being a forward pass.

          It would be near impossible to throw a good pass backwards relative to the ground whilst travelling at top speed forwards.

          QC was running forward and unless the ended up in the in-goal, like QC did when Shmoo caught it shouldn’t be called a forward pass.

        • Bobas

          doesn’t anyone understand simple Newtonian physics,
          even rugby league adopted this rule when someone in their ranks was smart enough to work out pretty much every pass actually goes foreward relative to the ground.

          Thumb up if you understand, you don’t even have to agree, just understand!

        • El Dommo

          Im sure Newton is at the moment rolling over in his grave.

          I am aware of the “motion” was backwards understanding, however in this instance,i would have to disagree with it ever, in any competition, except one with an elderly fat and myopic referee who was still at half way due to being in the death throes of a heart attack, being called a try.

        • Bobas

          so if your mum referees… TRY SHMOO.

          Sorry, too tempting.

          Like I originally said, thrown at half way and not on the tryline and it wouldn’t be called forward.

          Cos relative to his own forward movement, QC’s pass went backwards.

      • JayInTheBay

        Let it go Bobas…we all know about relative movement to the ground. Unfortunately the pass was quite clearly forward out of the hands.

  • Tigger

    That was really depressing! For an Australian living in Canada I have not had any real value for money in subscribing to setanta sports over here. A disappointing tri nations and now a farcical loss on the Northern tour!
    The match with the Welsh is lining up to be a wallaby slaughter!

    • Robson

      The Welsh are licking their lips.

  • Ben


    its not all glum… has been such a long time since i have seen the aussies have such a dominant pack….teh opportunites are opening up by the dozen, the boys are not finishing. Deans is doing his job, and if we took teh Opportunites created all games would have been Wallaby blow outs.

    I know its an old saying but a little patience here. We have teh talent todo it…Our biggest issue is Giteau is not an International 5/8 his brain explaosions and sideways running is causing real problems. He is the best at beating a man one on one then put him somewhere to do that (ie 12 or 15)

    Leave QC at 5/8 till Barnes is back.

    I live in the US and watch a lot of Ice Hockey, and if a team creates lots of scoring chances, they are beaten but over time they will win a lot more than lose. This is the Wallabies at the moment.

    • El Dommo

      Any attempt to take positives out of this game is seriously misplaced.

      This is the sort of performance where whatever you “built” before hand, needs to be reassessed and you have to work out how you lost to the 9th ranked team.

      By trying to find positives, one could apply that same rule as to why someone like Georgia should have won the last world cup, if this happened and this happened, then this happened. Fact = it didnt happen.

      However Ben, i will concede that if anything was evident in that game, is how competitive the front row is (NOTE: not pack)…the locks played like lemons…Palu was his normal one dimensional self (which played into the Scots defensive scheme), Rocky was incredible again, and George Smith thought he was playing inside centre again.

  • Davey

    From Rugby Heaven,

    ”We had the opportunity to steal the game at the end, but it was not to be,” Giteau said. ”It was disappointing … there’s not a real lot else to say.”

    How about “Sorry” to the Australian public and all past Wallabies for your disgraceful degredation of the jumper. Prick.

  • Sideshow

    First the players were adapting to playing what was in front of them… ok… but as noted by JJJ maybe we don’t have the rugby stock for that style of rugby… we are not New Zealanders Robbie!

    We have a few talented players but not enough for this style of rugby unfortunately… maybe 5 year ago we could have.

    This season we are focusing on the basics? Passing and catching a rugby ball? WTF? Is this our First XV or surburban rugby?

    We have lost that winning feeling and it seems half the players don’t care… I recall the Reds attitude when playing the Tahs… It was something like “at least we play entertaining rugby”!

    The players need a wake up call. At this level it is all about winning! If it is about how you play the game, go back to your clubs!

    Yes there are positives like our forward pack…. but “Sorry” is no longer good enough!

    • Epi

      I’ve never thought our players are good enough ‘thinkers’ to play whats in front of them. The fuck ups keep coming because they are trying to think and play at the same time…

      They need structure and backline moves – and they need one go-to playmaker.

      Gits to the wing or fullback for mine where he has space – will never happen though.

  • Robson

    I’m not Australian, but have been a totally committed supporter of the Wallabies since 1990. He doesn’t have to say sorry to me, but it would be good if he had expressed some regret about the result to the Oz fan base.

    Over the paast season my frustration with Giteau has been growing to bursting point. But to give him just a shadow of the benefit of the doubt, could it be that he’s played too much rugby under the belief that he is the MAN? Maybe someone needed to give him the opportunity for a reality check way before this.

    Dan Carter is now a much better 10 and I never thought I would say that. Gits game has gone off big time, but I don’t think he realises it.

    • Ozrugbynut

      He’s been built up/pampered/overpayed because of the lack of depth and experience in the player base. He’s still vital to our performance, but its how we deal with him.

      IMO, he’s playing out of position. Barnes (and not QC) needs to move into 5/8 permanently. If Gits wants to go overseas, I think we may have a viable 12 in JOC. This duel playmaker shit is a compromise, and how often do compromises work?

    • Hopefully Andy Friend will snap him back into shape. Being a Perth Princess has gone to his head.

      He’s certainly not vice captain material now, and I doubt he will be in the future either.

  • Pedro

    Gits needs to be re motivated, clearly snubbing him of the captaincy wasn’t enough. He would always start for the wallabies but having him think he’s position is garaunteed is hurting his hunger and those of the fringe players. I would love to see him in fb but then I would love to see anyone that could kick in fb. They should at least bench him or put him as 12 though, at least once, fire him up.

    • El Dommo

      Not sure Gits is a “is above it” kind of man. I think if he was benched or something like that……he would look to move overseas…

      i just get that from the bloke…

      as for FB, I dont think thats an option now…too long has passed with othrs in the role and gits at 10/12(when he moves into 2nd receiver), besides…the problem isnt gits at 15, the problem was losing viable 15’s because Dingo (and JON) decided that they would give a makeshift 15 (who should play 13) a crack, and some fkn whuss who should have played a season of Prem rugby

    • Pedro

      So let him go, why ransom the whole backline for a misfiring “super star”? If he can take it on the chin and come back the better for it then all the better. I don’t know if he’ll get the fly half position at the brummies either.

      • Patrick

        I was keen to see him at 12 when Barnes was still fit, now more than ever I would like to see him at 12 or indeed 15.

        The biggest problem is that he is despite it all our biggest dangerman – but it seems he would be much more effective getting the ball at 12 in more open play.

  • DPK

    James “JOCk” O’connor looked good when he came on, any news with regards to injuries?

    • Bobas

      Palu, Robinson and Ioane are out for next game. Genia, Kepu and Elsom in doubt

  • Ozrugbynut
  • dsan

    wales is the last international for the wallabies, and deans should just say to the whole starting XV against scotland “no, you all played shit so most of yous arent playing. there goes 11 grand out of ur pockets” and give people like mumm p.cowan etc a go, it could work because these guys are so sick of watching the losses on the bench they will put in a fresh hard effort. let the defeat to scotland remain as the last game for that starting XV

    • Bobas

      I want deans to play pocock in 7, and the smith brothers in first and 2nd reciever, George in 10.

      Ring up Phil Waugh he’s flying over to play like Palu in 8.

      I’m all for playing more forwards if the backs are going to score only one try despite having the ball for a half hour in the other teams 22.

      • Tod the Ranter

        Nice idea!

  • Ozrugbynut

    “I’m all for playing more forwards if the backs are going to score only one try despite having the ball for a half hour in the other teams 22″

    I’d agree and would consider giving Smith some game time alongside Palu (if available), Pocock and Elsom. Only issue is that Wales have got a pretty quick backline. Perhaps JOC could get a run at inside centre. QC needs to be ‘rotated’.

  • Damage

    I agree with Bobas. The pass was ‘back’, even though the ball may have travelled forward.

    It’s not rocket science.

    Always a big call though for the touchy to let them go in front of the home crowd like that.

  • gjd

    I’ve been saying to anyone remotely interested in Rugby down here (I live in Tassie) that all we needed to win the 2011 World Cup was a half-back and a tight-head prop. Well we now seem to have both, so I had hoped that this would lead to a Wallabies renaissance. But while there has been dramatic improvement to the scrum and the skill/ decision making at half-back, the team seems to be going backwards. We sure ain’t peaking too soon. The pack isn’t hunting as a unit, the kicking has been aimless, and the ball circulation has been slow. The backs can’t make breaks any more. Are the new laws to blame? Is the loss of Vickerman, Barnes and Mortlock too much for our playing depth to bear? We have speed to burn, yet our kick-chase has been lethargic. All our guys need to see are how Habana, Pietersen and co chase Steyn’s kicks to see how it should be done. I hope Robbie has a strategic plan for success , and I hope this plan becomes obvious to us true believers soon.

  • Conflicting reviews from me.

    1. Sack the backs vs Sack the coach.

    The performance of the backline against Scotland has been repeated often during 2009, but none as worse as Sun morning AEST. With so much talent, where is the strategy – combined with the forwards – that leads to a team try? The fault of the coach? Has Deans been instilling a NZ style of play which doesn’t work for the Wallabies?

    Time and time again we attacked but as Matty on Chasing the Glory says “we went for the killer blow on the first phase” instead of laying down the phase ball. But numerous reports have told us that, (for the Wallabies at least) it’s become safer to kick then to repeat wave after wave of breakdowns, as our performances has shown we inevitably lose the ball.

    So are we damned if we do and damned if we don’t?

    I feel sick in the stomach…

    • Lance Free

      I had a look at that ‘Chasing the Glory’ website. Talk about lightweight crap. Dumb and dumber at the hair salon. A bimbo website for short attention spans.

      The ARU must be desperate in their quest for pulling the Y Gen if they’re supporting that garbage. What’s that saying about the lowest common denominator…..

      • I thought rugby players had short attention spans.

  • i can fix it in three months, problem is people wont listen too me!

    i was this worried a few months ago but you all just mocked me and told me i was seeing things that wern’t there!

    so to the ARU and everyone from north/south or west of the only border that matters, enjoy your wallabies, there this way cos its what you wanted!

    • Bobas

      Do you and Kanye West have the same disease?

      • yep, were both leaders in our chosen field and win trophys and awards, wish the wallabies had the same problem!!!

        • Bobas

          genius, voice of your generation and homosexual fish.

        • Davey

          Do you like fish sticks?

  • beeza

    I think people are being pretty alarmist! There were no positives to be had fom the game, but for the scots to get that win a fair number of things went their way:

    1: No conclusive footage of Elsom over the line

    2: Scottish penalty which rebounded through the goal

    3: Timing of Palus injury giving them breather

    4: Giteaus kicking

    5: injuries to robinson and genia

    6: worsening weather during the match

    7: forward pass (what am I talking about, it was a mile forward! Quade Cooper – punch yourself in the face)

    The centres need sorting out, but injuries to Ioane and Berrick have made that difficult. I think we should congratulate scotland and move on because any more analysis will just depress the sh1t out of me.

    • Tod the Ranter

      Alarmist – yes. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. If the various tries had been awarded (and nothing else), the Wallabies would’ve won, but would have still played bloody badly – with all the unforgivablely poor elements discussed. That has happened before and a week later it is all but forgotten. At least now, there will (may) be some serious soul searching going on – within the coaching, manangement and players.

      So, there’s ONE positive.

      • Tod the Ranter

        ..then again, you are correct. On the day of Giteau’s worst form, everything else also went wrong – from forwards falling the wrong way, to injuries to key players, to QC being useless, and to an opposition with a stealy determination to defend and, if possible, win. What chance that that will all happen again, at the same time?

    • savscot

      thank you, at least someone recognises the effort and passion the Scots plaayed with. You guys should have won, you guys were the better team. But one hell of a match and what’s wrong with pride, blood and guts winning a game occasionally. I thought the after match press conference from deans and elsom was the most ungracious, condescending and un aussie I’ve ever seen. what ever happened to “bloody good game mate, wait till next time!”

      • Ozrugbynut

        Fair play mate.

        You’ve got to understand the mood here. This was such a shock. I think everyone here and inclusive of Elsom and Deans would agree the Scot put in an effort to be proud of, but the initial reaction at that press conference was one of shock, embarrassment and utter disappointment. You can’t blame them for focussing on their own performance in the moment as we’d butchered so many opportunities. Had we been playing SA or NZ it would not have been such a shock as we’ve been losing to them all year and are more inclined to say “they were better” but this is another kettle of fish completely.

        p.s. Well played and thank you Scotland for doing the WBs a favour. Hopefully this is the kick up the pants we need to start getting some results.

        • savscot

          True, that I understand, not used to losing to us, we’re not used to winning!but for a 9 – 8 game that has to be one of the most exciting. Funniest comment of the day, Lote tiquiri on local radio”almost glad we lost, pubs are going to be nuts tonight”. Also everyone seems to blame lack of attacking penetration and inventiveness, I think they are missing the point that the reason Scotland were able to line up so many tackles was they competed every ruck, slowed the ball and forced aus to commit more attackers than they wanted.

  • AussieScot

    Lets try this:

    The Aussies tried and tried to bash the Jocks up front but just couldn’t best them. They were beaten by a harder, more determined team. The forwards had the gold knocked out of their fillings as well as the jumper and they were given a lesson in tackling. Posession means sod all if you can do anything with it and the backs did sod all. If the Scots had shown any invention at all (which they are OCCASIONALLY capable of doing) by throwing the ball out beyond 12 to either of their huge powerful wingers instead of kicking it back to Aus then something might have happened for them but a lack of invention at 10 killed that idea off and let the Wallabies retain posession and make the stats look in their favour. Yeah, so the Wallabies would have won playing like that any other day of the week, but Scotland stood up to you. Dry your fucken eyes and get over it.

    • DPK

      agree, props to the scots.

    • gutted homie

      Congrats to Scotland. The Scots should be proud, thier team stood up.

      Australians don’t mind losing we have been doing it consistently for a few years now. Its the manner of the loss that has us absolutely gutted.

      Its taking a long bow to say the Scots won because they played better and that’s what hurts the most.

      We have elivated choking to art form of late and we are sick of hearing how gutted the players are. They should feel shame no regret. They have become a disgrace.

      It pains me deeply…I am a long time rugby tragic who will be watching a lot more league next year.

      Don’t bother coming home win lose or draw next week. Giteau stay in in EU and be a star.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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