Five observations from Wallabies v Wales - Green and Gold Rugby

Five observations from Wallabies v Wales

Five observations from Wallabies v Wales

The Aussies started their new Cheika-led test campaign in the UK and Europe with a high spirited 33-28 win over the Welsh in Cardiff. Here are five aspects of the game that stood out to me.

1. Folau’s try scoring frenzy

It’s gotta be hard to be Israel Folau doesn’t it? Too often he just can’t seem to win. Only last month folk were complaining that his winning of the John Eales Medal was some sort of conspiracy to keep him connected to rugby. Entering this test it was the fact that he hadn’t scored a try since the Perth test against the Springboks. Well he was back on the try scorers’ list on Saturday night. in fact he was back there twice.

It was Izzy’s 16th and 17th try for the Wallabies. Not a bad record for someone who played his first test at the beginning of last year. He’s close now, but he could finish the tour within spitting distance of legends Little, Lynagh and Gregan’s career try-scoring stats. A decent RWC and he’s close to the top ten all-time.

Don’t discount the nature of the tries – running on to a Michael Hooper off-load and an intercept runaway. Folau still cracked almost 150 run metres, beat defenders, off-loaded and continues to be a massive threat to the Wallabies’ opposition. The emergence of Tevita Kuridrani takes some of the attacking pressure off Folau, but there’s no doubting the two will be the focus of most opposing coach’s plans for the next twelve months.

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  • pem890

    “Although I’m not convinced his aimless mid-field kick with minutes to go was the best option”

    jeez Reg, that’s dressing it up isnt it ? it was the worst possible bloody option – brain fade ! why wasnt the skipper screaming at his troops to keep it in the forwards, and just hold on to the pill ???

    • Rex Munday

      He just doesn’t have the makings of a world cup winning 5/8

      • Robbo_76

        I’m not convinced we can win a RWC with him either…but he finally closed out a game for us. His error rate is a lot higher than we would think for the lack of play that he creates compared with QC. His defence is also willing, but not sufficient. On form though, he is the best 5/8 we have (QC may return to the heights of last year’s spring tour, but isn’t there at the moment) and i want to win every game, so i hope Foley keeps improving. That said, i think QC should be on the bench.

        On Saia, he was really good and on a separate note although not at all promoted by Reg, other articles have said our 2nd rowers haven’t been good. That said, our line out has been excellent and i think we are forgetting how important this is. Carter was a little off perhaps in this game, but Simmons was great (including strong in general play). I was at the game and didn’t see much from Skelton (plenty of others have commented on this so i won’t go into detail).

        • Mike

          Carter generally wasn’t bad, but he coughed up possession twice! He really has to work on ball security because we cannot afford that.

        • he wasn’t bad. he was horrible.

        • I agree Robbo -76 he is completely missing in defense. and last few starts, he has missed a few tackles that led to tries.

      • Jobe

        That’s what they said about Stephen Donald when he kicked the ball away in Hong Kong.

        Anyway i like to think that kicking the ball back to wales was a genius decision that will haunt the welsh before our next meeting. After all the times we’ve beaten them in the last minute, we finally give them a chance to do it to us and they fail. It’s all mind games.

    • PiratesRugby

      Foley has been great. He knows his limitations and tailors his game accordingly. He’s not a RWC winning 5/8. He’s usually the second best 5/8 on the field. But he’s doing the job nicely at the moment. He’s not going to get taller, faster, a better pass or a longer kick. But he’s ours and he’s doing fine.
      The problem with QC is that while the opposition don’t know what he’s going to do, neither do his team mates. That means hesitation which we can’t afford.

      • he and toomua seemed to work quite well together. WG doesnt play as well without QC. Flat (not foley forward) passes to Kirindrani would be a sight to behold. I disagree. Foley is not a world cup 10, phipps not a RWC 9.

        • Ryanno

          Interesting comments that Foley and Phipps are not world cup winning players. Last time I checked there is not a single player in the team who is “world cup winning”. The difference between Foley/Phipps & QC/Genia is that QC/Genia have tried and failed at RWC. QC in particular was a massive fail at the previous RWC. He needs to play seriously well next year if he wants his starting 5/8 position back. I would expect that Genia’s class will eventually shine through but I’m not convinced QC has the goods and meanwhile Foley will continue to get better for the Wallabies and the Tahs between now and the RWC.

        • And anyone who believes the game plan employed at the RWC wasn’t flawed is living a lie an it certainly wasnt QCs game plan to implement. Foley has no x factor and is average at execution. QC is a much different player since Deans miserable attempt at creating a game plan not suited to the team. QC shouldn’t have been selected at all with that game plan. But that was a long time ago. Foley is not getting better. Phipps is killing it but still lacks a running game. re-watch the test and see the indecision in his game when attempting to run. RWC cannot accept an error rate like Foley’s. QC proved he is capable of doing exactly what Foley has been doing (Dunedin v ABs) He has no form at the moment but I still have much more confidence in him winning big games; not an under strength Wales or a pathetic France.

        • Ryanno

          Foley has some x factor, he was a 7s specialist. The only game I have rewatched so far was QC v The BaaBaas. He was very ordinary but will get better. I hope he does improve for the Reds and we get to genuine 5/8 options. Until then Foley is the best option and he actually won the game for us on Saturday.
          I would like to have your confidence re. QC winning big games but I just can’t remember the last time he did it. Foley on the other hand has done it at least twice this year in the Super Rugby final and on the weekend.

        • Ryanno

          As I said mate I do hope QC gets it together and that he can challenge Foley to start but until that happens I am happy with what I see from Foley, he’s not perfect but plays with a lot of ticker, stays humble and works hard.

        • Observer

          Well hopefully Genia get’s his form back.
          He was again poor on the weekend.
          I’ll go back and rewatch the match as it was a cracker from start to finish, but my memory of Genia’s efforts were that he ran sideways a fair bit before sending the pass and seemed to be falling all over the place like he had no balance.
          If we look at the combinations:
          Phipps > Foley > Lilo is looking very good.
          Genia > QC > Toomua also looked very good the other year.
          Unfortunately it doesn’t leave us much space on the bench.

        • even Dwyer liked Genias efforts. He did alright.

        • Lachie

          What a ridiculous comment. By your logic we shouldn’t pick a single player from the 2011 RWC squad because they have all failed to win a world cup before. The teams that have won the world cup are the ones who have had guys who have tried and failed at the tournament before (NZ in 2011, RSA in 2007, England in 2003 and certainly Australia in 1999). Roff, Eales, Kearns, Gregan, Horan – all players who “failed” at the 1995 world cup and succeeded for us in 1999.
          The last four RWC winning fly halves have been Dan Carter, Andre Pretorius, Johnny Wilkinson and Steve Larkham. Teams with a 5/10 fly half don’t win world cups. If we are serious about having a shot at winning the tournament we need to get a player with the genuine potential to be a great in the team as soon as possible.

        • Ryanno

          Not at all mate. I am saying and I think you have misunderstood me is that we don’t have any RWC winning players yet but there is some potential. My post is in response to people above saying Foley and Phipps aren’t RWC winning players but the reality is that none of the team have won or looked like winning a RWC. Agree that it probably takes a number of attempts for the core of a team to win a RWC. Agree with your point re. the 5/8s listed. I certainly see more chance of Foley over QC developing more into the mould of the 5/8s listed

        • I have to admit i posted a cranky response to you Ryanno but then realised that you are suggesting you hope others can show the form needed to play better than our current 10. The problem being, i feel, all and sundry, including the blind welsh commentary, IMO gave Foley MOTM even before the game had started. everyone is ont he foley train and ignoring glaring deficiencies in his game. I agree wholeheartedly with Lachie; we cant win with a 5/10 flyhalf and I will add, with no x factor.

        • Ryanno

          No dramas. Foley, QC et al have a year to stand up and show who is best. I’m looking forward to them bringing their A games. Hopefully come RWC time Cheika has a difficult selection to make because they are all playing really well.

        • At the start of the super season, I was as keen as mustard to see so much potential going head to head for rwc spots. Injury largely kicked that in the nuts and now we’re getting back. If only we had some locks.

        • Klaus

          Couldn’t agree more.

        • Lachie

          Fair call, sorry if I misinterpreted. I have to disagree that Foley has more potential to develop into a great fly half than Cooper. Foley is at the top of his game currently and he doesn’t even compare to the quality of player that Cooper is at the top of his.

        • Graeme

          I think you will find it was Donald Duck, not Dan Carter who won 2011 World Cup, which doesn’t really fit with your dialogue.

        • Donald… Under rated… :)

        • Galty

          Anyone else noticed phipps is a recurrent face in all the press conferences the wobs are having?? He seems to be the player making all the statements and being quoted of late – think they’re grooming him for something?

    • kp

      The reason the skipper was not screaming at his troops to keep it in the forwards is because Hooper is still too young to have a skippers mindset.
      That is not a slight on Hooper and I don’t know many people his age who would make a good wallaby captain. For that matter he is one of only 4 guarantee starters (along with Slipper, Kuridrani and Folau).
      Just having a captains brain takes time for most people and I guess Hooper is a few years off being a good captain.

    • Shulzi

      It’s pretty simple stuff: Chieka was brought on board to bring his brand of exciting rugby. With Foley the posterboy of it, he sure as hell delivered.

  • Josh

    I was at the game- what an atmosphere! The Welsh truly know how to enjoy their rugby…when they started singing “Land of My Fathers” I did not think we would make it out of Millennium with that ‘W’. Why can’t we sing like that?
    This game has somehow made me more nervous before the WC- Wales can play! They were right there the whole game and in the end it was only a couple of missed tackles that undid them. Come World Cup time they will be harder to beat

    • Ryanno

      So will we.

  • skip

    I’d think that when whatever defensive system Cheeks has starts to click, the Wallabies will a lot more difficult to beat. I felt that the first welsh try and Cuthbert’s try were pretty soft defensive misreads which can be coached out. Their try at half time came from gift field position through dumb penalties. So that leaves the penalty try, which we seem to concede every few tests but the Poms will have noticed this. Over all, I liked the way they attacked and look forward to improved defensive understanding through the tour.

    To add to your remarks on the Welsh and how they played. I think “Warren-Ball” has been found out to some degree. They have a huge back line but they just don’t seem to get the ball on the gain line, offer the runner enough options or change the point of attack. Their “championship quarter” included a 20 odd phase sequence for a gain of about 3 meters followed by a wasted kick- it was all very Dingo-esque. Guys of their size getting the ball on the gain line, like our backs did for good periods, would have been much harder to handle.

  • The Rant

    I think Faiinga deserves more than just saying he’s moved himself to be a valid 3rd choice hooker. Credit where credit is due – SF has been on target and helped our line out be a solid weapon against SA,NZ and now Wales. His defense and work rate has been excellent. Moore is a great thrower sure, but TPN is in my opinion the least accurate lineout thrower in the super comp and has been a throwing liability for years.

    • Mike

      Saia has been playing well.

    • RugbyStu

      I love how he plays almost like an extra flanker sometimes, so busy and good pilfering hes a great extra weapon.

  • klaus

    After watching this game again it baffles me what a difference there is between Quade and Foley. If Quade threw 3 forward passes, didn’t kick out off a penalty, had useless grubbers, was the reason the Welsh broke the line because he gets himself marking no one instead of his man, missed Tackles and kicked away the ball with seconds to go the slander from both commentators and the public would be immense. Not so with Foley it seems.

    On another note I am sick of the negative commentary of fox sports. They always pick the negative rather than the positive something the leagUr commentators never do. An example was when we had a great lineout in defense and Clarke says oh a wobbly Wales Lineout. No idiot. It was great lineout defence by Australia. Rant over.

    • Stuey

      Not just Quade. Toomua did it and there were screams from the forums to drop him. I remember when Toomua missed touch with a penalty kick (which was so bloody close the player jumped outside the field of play to somehow keep the ball in) and Kearns was bagging him BIG time. But this time it was barely even mentioned.
      Oh couldn’t agree with you more about the commentators. I was screaming at the tv for them to shut up!@ And Marto … now that she is married she is referred to as the Duchess of Cambridge. Just a small thing, but some English guys I was watching with were a little put out that he called her Kate Middleton.

    • Phil

      Where I live we had the Welsh commentators and they gave Foley the man of the match,so they must have been watching the same game as I was.Sure he made a few errors but there are not many 5/8 who don’t as they are right in the thick of the action.Take a look at Cruden,who is probably rated one of the best running around,he makes mistakes,missed kicks which could have cost AB’s game against poms.Foley won the match for us for goodness sakes!

    • Braveheart81

      The reaction to Foley’s game would have been justifiably worse if he’d kicked 5 from 6, missed the field goal and we’d lost by a point.

      He kicked everything and got us home. There were quite a few errors including the two forward passes but he played flat to the line and got the job done.

      • handles

        and last year, Cooper kicked 18 points against Wales, set up a try with a wonderful offload, didn’t miss touch, and made some crunching tackles, before being incorrectly carded for an early tackle. But that has been forgotten.

        • RobC

          One of my enduring memories of EOYT, was when Kepu judo’d and turtle-backed Hibbard for Hooper to pick off. Three passes later it was a counter attack try by Folau off a QC trick-off load in the face of a somewhat beffudled North.

        • RobC

          Another one was Dublin last year. The WB pack just won the scrum feed after a tighthead:
          – The WB pack dominates the Irish scrum, again.
          – Ball goes to QC with 2 or 3 WB runners, with about the same defenders.
          – Then he ghosts through all the Emerald defenders, with almost zero gap between them, untouched under the posts, for seven points.

    • Axemen

      100% agree, Foley seems to be exempt from criticism by G&GR writers.

    • Matt

      completely agree 110%…when Quade isn’t the starting 5/8 there is always a pretty big chorus for him to be put in and people complain about how much we miss his style of play and the way he releases his outside backs…then when he gets picked he is consistently lamented for doing something wrong or trying something and it not coming off…I think Foley is a ‘solid’ flyhalf without being spectacular…at the moment he is the little golden boy of Aus rugby and any shortcomings are overlooked…it is grim

  • David Ogle

    Great write up Reg. I’m starting to think Foley will be the sort of 5/8 we need come Bill time. His skills, confidence and accuracy has developed along with Phipps over the passed year. With another year of refinement, they could both be just what we are looking for. With Genia and Cooper right behind them, I am feeling pretty bloody good about things at the moment. Maybe it’s because I can still feel the sickness of watching Bernie, our only option at the time, held together with 200m of Elastoplast, trying to get out of the ’07 RWC quarters.

  • LazyRunner

    Great assessment Rugby Reg. I’m mystified at the blame Foley has received for kicking the ball away at the end. I totally agree – the Wallabies should have held onto the ball for the last 40 seconds to finish the game, but watch the replay of the restart and then ask: What other options did Foley have?

    Five forwards in the first ruck to secure the ball (good take from Horwill), three forwards in the second ruck (BA inspecting) and when Genia picks up the ball, four of the forwards in the first ruck are still getting back onside. Genia picks up quickly (outside the 22) and fires it back to Foley. He has only Izzy and Tomane in support and three Welsh forward bearing down on him.

    People ask: “What was he thinking?”. Here’s my guess: “Mmmm. Thanks Genia. You couldn’t have kept the ball in that ruck for another few seconds so that the forwards could run another phase?”

    But then, what would Quade have done? He probably would have kicked it too. No wait, he would have taken on the Welsh forwards with a jinking step off the left foot and linked up with Tomane – where the ball would have got turned over on the Wallabies 22. No. He probably would have kicked it. Wouldn’t he?

    And while I’m on the #JusticeForBernard soap box. No drop goal is a dead certainty. Just ask Quade after the Reds loss to the Force earlier this year. That’s recent history. Not nostalgia.

    OK you Cooper-ites. Flame ON Baby!!

    • Geoffwho

      ?? Don’t blame Genia. Foley was back positioned for the kick and went into motion as soon as he got it. Foley called for it.

      • LazyRunner

        I’m not. If I were to blame anyone, it’s the coaching staff. The problem of “How to play the last 2 minutes of a test” has to be properly addressed. Hopefully they will approach it like they do in NFL and have a rehearsed plan for those last two minutes. Watching the All Blacks, where it seems that no player looks desperate, confused or tries to push a low percentage pass, it appears they have already done this.

    • So Tomane couldn’t have positioned himself to take a hit up? Kuridrani couldn’t take a hit up? Only a forward can hit the ball up? What would Cooper have done? Who cares he wasn’t playing.

      • LazyRunner

        Yep. That’s my point. The questions you’ve asked are far better ones than “What was Foley thinking?”.

        • Pie Thrower

          So EVERYONE else has to have a question asked of them, but NOT the guy who took the wrong option? Wow. Some serious blame shifting going on there.

        • Regardless of who kicked it, that makes 2 tests in a row we’ve made poor decisions to kick the ball away while defending a small lead. Not the best decision by whoever made it. We’re just lucky we got away with it this time.

  • Joe Blow

    Great article Reg.
    Yes Foley is the complete package. He organises the team well in attack, contributes at the breakdown, in defense and kicks 100% for the match including a picture perfect fieldy. WTF do people want? The kick in the last minute wasn’t the best idea considering what happened in the third Bled but besides that it was a complete performance.
    I am a big Quade fan and his passing game is unmatched but I’m not sure if his decision making is on par with Foley.
    McMahon learned a lot in this test. He will be around the scene for many years to come.
    I think we missed Toomua in this game.
    Genia contribution was a good one. Need a little more beef in the back row against the Frogs.

  • I am sorry but I watched the game thrice and Foley’s accuracy and error rate is shocking. just because he can kick a few reasonably easy goals, doesn’t make him the messiah…

    Spot on RE: Faainga. TPN has never had the work rate or set piece Saai does atm.

  • bad ass

    Cooper’s kicks and kicking options are way better than Foleys.

  • Anth

    Full credit should go to the Wallabies for getting home, if only just. Maybe Foley isn’t a RWC winning 5/8 but last time I checked no 5/8 has ever won a RWC without his mates around him. As for any talk about QC being a better option, he currently isn’t (due to injuries and lack of gametime), it is up to him to push for selection & the fact that he is quiet, is a big plus for the Wallabies. He too hasn’t proved himself to be a RWC winning 5/8.
    I wonder if anyone ever thought of moving TPN to tighthead, so he doesn’t have to throw? He is a great asset around the field, has great strength and is a tireless scrummager. His achillies heals are his throwing and his ability to get injured, take the throwing out of the equation, add some luck and you never know we might solve a few issues. I know it is technically a different mindset but he is strong and could hold up looseheads who don’t bind or bore in on the angle, like so many seem to be allowed to do at the moment. Imagine a front row that features both Moore and TPN, I like the sound of that but it is just a thought!

    • Graeme

      I sometimes wonder wether he could be moved back to 8. I think he started off as an 8 before moving to hooker, and his extreme physicality would make him an asset there, without having to worry about his slightly suspect lineout throwing.

  • RobC

    Thanks for the article. I dont think SeanMac should play 6 against the big boys.
    I believe Tevita K was a bigger impact than Folau. But in any case, good to see Folau deliver two tries. I sometime think that Fingers gets nervous when throwing to a lineout that includes Big Kev..

    And I thought Wales attack died when Biggars left the field. Injured I think

  • handles

    “Of the many notable occurrences from that [Cape Town] test, one that didn’t get the headlines was Fainga’a’s game.”

    You obviously didn’t read my match review on The Roar! :-)

    Saia has been one of the most maligned players in the country over the last few years. Connolly described him as Queensland’s point of difference in the Reds Super winning year, and I agree 100%. It is great to see him back in form and back in gold. His low tackling and his work over the ball create turnover opportunities, and the Wallabies really need that at the moment.

  • Lee Grant

    Great blog Rugby Reg and a good call about the Welsh players.

    Our locks are poor and how good would it be to have a fellow like Alun-Wynn Jones in our pack – a bruiser but with a big engine and as cunning as a shouse rat?

    Hibbard has been in terrific form for a couple of years now and I was surprised at how well Lydiate played because he struggled to get a game at Racing Metro and they are happy to get rid of him.

    “Saia it Again” (That was a good one Reg) – Good call. I haven’t been a big fan to be honest, but he is having a rebirth this year as you indicate. We must have the best fourth- and fifth-ranked hookers in the world because Hanson was also good, just quietly.

    Which reminds me: the bench was a lot better than I thought it would be – especially since I thought Jenkins. Tipuric and Phillips would make a significant impact when they emerged for Wales. Genia was much improved for an “old dog” – he is passing off the ground better as is Nick Phipps this season.

    McMahon – yeah, he had a tough time but will learn a lot from that game and more from the next time he gets a chance. As I wrote elsewhere: it’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.

  • anor

    So incredibly excited by Fainga’a and the show he put on…absolutely rock solid…those clean-outs …man alive!!!!!!! He was absolutely amazing!! I’ve always been sceptical about him but after this weekend…wowza!!!

  • Foley continues to be way under rated …….. in Australia!

  • Bfc

    Fist half akin to a BaaBaas game…paper defence by the Wannabes and lots of missed tackles (eg AAC missed a one-on-one that led to the second Wales try). Though McMahon was caught out for the opening try, so was Hooper (and if Izzy had not intercepted the pass and scored Wales would have been in front and sustaining all the pressure as they were ascendant at the time)…but McMahon will (to use a racing parlance..) “be better for the run”.

    Scrum ‘penalty try’ is a concern and the scrum remains our ‘Achilles heel’…it seemed that the positioning of the players in the scrum was poor when they were under pressure? Props feet too far back so they could not stay up under pressure, poor binding by the locks (Horwill and Skelton were disjointed so how could they sustain a push..?) and both flankers were ‘meekating’ and looking up before the scrum was completed…unless they stay bound they cannot apply pressure via the props.
    Some remedial scrum work needed ASAP or the refs will ‘ping’ us off the park…
    A much needed…if shaky…win!

  • Stephen Larkham

    One thing that i really think is a point of difference between Quade and Foley is their tactical kicking. Maybe as a Queenslander I notice more negatives when Foley’s on the firld but I can’t help but think Foley’s short legs just don’t get the same distance out of the ball as Quade does. Check out the kicks at 17:26 and 35:30 on the clock and you’ll see what I mean

  • TouchFinderGeneral

    Good stuff @RugbyReg. For me the single standout feature of the game was the way the lads handled Wales going ahead in the last quarter. Calm, purposeful, rugby. Irish legend Keith Wood called the lead up to the final penalty shot “Perfect rugby”. The kick at the end could have gone awry, but so could getting turned over on or around the 22.

    SF has been superb since he came back in. *We actually have a decent front row*! I’m in shock I could write that without crossing my fingers behind my back. Yeah, the PT was a downer, but it isn’t like we got a fair deal from CJ there either. The 2nd reset should have been a penalty to the W’s.

    Does Gatland have it written into his contract he can’t say anything nice about the opposition (Unless it’s, well, you-know-who)?

  • RugbyStu

    Folau and Kurindrani centre combo make it happen just once!

  • Avid

    Very good analysis pointing to a better tomorrow.

    Chieka’s best comment is about working on today, not down the track to a RWC (hallelulia). I hope he stays true to himself, and regrets saying we’ll be better next year because we’ve got ‘artillery’ at home.

  • Realist

    Klaus many people talk of Quades’ failings cause there are lots of them, i.e his tackling is still rubbish, his kicking game is still poor and since his knee surgery his occasional running game is gone. So what is it we pick him for? Passing? (that’s kinda like picking a non-running, non scrummaging, unintimidating lock for his line out prowess). Quade isn’t being victimised he just isn’t the complete footballer an international team needs. Foley isn’t there yet either but he’s a lot closer than Cooper.


The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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