Welcome to the last rugby news of 2020.
Monday’s Rugby News looks at Australia’s draw with Argentina, John Eales being cemented as a legend of Australian sport and Maurice Longbottom re-commits to 7s ahead of the Tokyo Games
The Wallabies have been held to another draw against Argentina with the scores locked at 16-all at full-time.
It marks the third time in 2020 that they have been held to a draw after failing to kick a last-minute penalty goal, with fullback Reece Hodge pushing the kick to the right.
Before the game, the Wallabies made history as they became the first Australian international side to sing a dual-language anthem ahead of their final test match of the year.
Unfortunately for fans, this would mark one of the few highlights of the game as the Wallabies failed to control themselves and the ball in wet and wild conditions at Bankwest Stadium.
Both sides would have players sent to the bin during the first half, with Marcos Kremer and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper issued yellow cards after making contact with the head of an opponent whilst attempting to clear out at the ruck.
The Pumas took advantage of their time with Hooper off the field as winger Bautista Delguy raced away to put them ahead 13-6 at half-time.
Whilst the Wallabies would reduce the margin, their night would continue to get worse when Salakaia-Loto went too high trying to tackle Santiago Grondora.
Having spent just nine minutes on the field, Salakaia-Loto would fail to drop his body height, with the head and arm collecting the Pumas flanker in a dangerous position.
Referee Angus Gardner would deem that he would make direct contact with the head of Grondora, giving him no option but to issue him a red card.
With the Wallabies down a man, they seemed to rally in his absence, with captain Michael Hooper redeeming himself at the back of a maul as he crossed to level the scores.
Once again, it would come down to the boot of Reece Hodge, who missed a 45-metre penalty to win the game for Australia in the 79th minute.
Long way to go
With his first season as coach wrapped up, Dave Rennie concedes that there is still a lot of work to do after their draw to Argentina.
Rennie’s first year in charge can be viewed differently depending on what colour glasses you look through it at.
Those who see pure gold will point out that the side lost just twice all year, whilst others will point to the sole victory as a sign of a lack of improvement.
However, regardless of how you look it, Rennie believes that the side needs to improve their execution and turning possession into points.
“It’s something we’ve talked a lot about, we’ve got to turn pressure into points,” Rennie told reporters after the draw.
“Having said that, they’re a phenomenal defensive side and individually they tackle really well. We had our opportunities didn’t we and they grabbed theirs as soon as they got them.
“We’re a work in progress. We’re good men who have worked hard and come together well, but, as I’ve said, we need to see that reflected in performance.
“There’s no lack of heart and no lack of effort, but we’ve got to be way more clinical. Discipline was disappointing tonight and we made some dumb errors.
“We won one out of six, if you look at it from that perspective. It’s disappointing, but I guess we’ve got an understanding of where we’re at, the shifts we need to make and I look forward to seeing how these boys develop and apply pressure to us through Super Rugby.”
Rennie rejected claims that the psychological damage of past failures has haunted the side, defending kicker Reece Hodge after his penalty miss.
“I feel a bit sorry for him,” Rennie said during his post-match press conference.
“He’s kicked well and there weren’t many lining up to make that shot. It would have been nice if he’d kicked that, but it is what it is.”
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to win all of them. I don’t think it’s psychological,
“All of those games shouldn’t have come down to a last-minute penalty attempt.
“We’ve gone from a team that barely kicks to a team that managed that last part of the game pretty well.
“We’ve got so much more in us and I’m looking forward to showing that next.”
Everyone’s favourite lock John Eales has been officially promoted to ‘legend’ status at the Sport Australia Awards ceremony on Friday.
Eales becomes the 42nd – and first rugby player – to be issued with the title of ‘Legend of Australian Sport’, joining the likes of The Don, Dawn Fraser and Rod Laver.
“I am truly honoured with this announcement by Sport Australia Hall of Fame and would like to thank all involved in selecting me,” Eales said in a statement.
“There have been truly amazing Australians who have received this honour and the fact I am even considered in the same breath is very humbling.
“Rugby and the Wallabies gave me a lot throughout my playing career, and I am forever grateful for the many opportunities afforded to me by so many people along the way.
“Most importantly though I would like to thank my loving family. They have supported me through the highs and lows and without them, achievements of any kind would matter little.”
This was echoed by RA chairman Hamish McLennan, who was full of praise for ‘Nobody’.
“The Australian Rugby community is incredibly proud John has received this accolade and on behalf of everyone, we extend our congratulations to John and his family,” he added.
“John without question is one of the great characters and icons of our sport, not just for the way he conducted himself in the Gold jersey, but for the way he defined what it meant be a Wallaby during his playing days.
“Never taking a backward step, playing hard and fair are the values that encapsulates the Wallabies wherever they play around the world, and that is in no small part due to the contribution of John made whilst he played and captained his country.
“Today, John should look back on his achievements on-and-off the field with a great level of pride, having always worked humbly for the success of himself, his teammates and his country.”
Moz sticks with Oz
The Australian men’s sevens side has received a major boost with the electric Maurice Longbottom committing to the side for the Toyko Games.
Longbottom has become a stalwart of the program since going viral on debut in 2017, spending the tour lockdown honing his skills for Randwick in the Shute Shield.
Having attracted offers from multiple sides and codes, Longbottom remains laser-focused on the goal at hand: earning a medal at the postponed 2021 Olympics.
“I’m really pumped to have signed on the dotted line and committed until Tokyo with this team,” he said.
“Our goals for Tokyo 2020 have been delayed but this team has continued to work hard for each other in a challenging environment. Our objective was to ‘survive and thrive’ and adapt to every situation in a positive and performance-based mindset.
“The group is tighter than ever before, and I am looking forward to enjoying the hard work as we work towards our goals.”
He returns under the tutelage of someone who knows a little bit about Olympics medals: Tim Walsh, with Walsh praising his development as a player and leader in 2020.
“Despite several other lucrative offers Maurice has chosen to continue with his quest toward the Olympic podium. We as a program are delighted to have his commitment leading into Tokyo,” he stated.
“There is no doubt of Moz’s brilliance on the field; creative, attacking minded, matched with his ability to break the line has been a great weapon in our arsenal since his debut.
“He is renowned for his lethal attacking exploits, what impresses me is his defence and contact area improvements. He possesses a true high-performance mindset.
“Off the field he has been a leader for this squad, during covid19 he has chosen an attitude of positivity and opportunity.
“We officially relaunched our campaign a few weeks ago and continue to work for our goals in Tokyo next year.”
With the rugby season over for another year, this brings an end to the news for 2020. Major thanks has to go to the entire Green and Gold writing crew who have been immense during a year full of ups and downs for the sport and world in general.
On behalf of the entire team, we would like to thank everyone who has read/commented/debated our articles this year and we’re looking forward to seeing you all next year.