Nine observations from the Wallaby win over Ireland - Green and Gold Rugby
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Nine observations from the Wallaby win over Ireland

Nine observations from the Wallaby win over Ireland

What a game. Rugby is bloody good, but international rugby is even better.

I’m still buzzing from the result, and the experience of being at the ground to see a great Wallaby win. Here are a few things I picked up from watching the replay:

Championship Minutes

It was the 58th minute. Ireland have just edged in front, 9-8. On to the field jogs Johnny Sexton. Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy entered the fray a few minutes beforehand. The Irish crowd have found their voice, and you get the feeling that something is about to give. And it did.

If you told me at that point that Ireland would win by 10+ points, I would have believed you. The composure of the Six Nations champions would be too much against a Wallaby side that had been defending relentlessly for the previous hour. We’d surely slip off a tackle or two, fumble a pass or buckle in the scrum.

Much to my surprise, it was the Wallabies who stepped up. And wasn’t it bloody great to see! We upped our intensity, made a few big plays and 15 minutes later we had a ten point lead. And it was a lead generated by the work of all 23 players.

Flipping the script

One team dominated possession and territory, but suffered due to their inability to find an alternative strategy when Plan A wasn’t working. They missed a regulation penalty goal, spilled a couple of up-and-unders and their scrum buckled at the worst possible time.

Meanwhile, the other team played a smart strategy that ruthlessly exploited their point of difference, and capitalised on every chance that was presented to them. They came away with a relatively comfortable win despite being behind in most key statistics.

I’ve seen that game a dozen times before, and eleven of those times the Wallabies played the former role. We’d play all the rugby but be defeated by our own hard-headedness and mistakes at crucial times. On Saturday, for once, we played the latter role. Long may it continue.

Two hands for beginners, please...

Two hands for beginners, please…

We’ll get better

I’m really excited to see how we perform on Saturday, because we were underdone in so many ways last weekend. Our lineout was shambolic. It’s not really anyone’s fault – it’s just what happens when you throw blokes together on a Monday who have never met, and then expect them to compete against a world class set piece that Saturday. It will improve with time.

That had a tangible impact on the way we played. We couldn’t risk throwing to the back, so we stuck to jumpers at 2 and 4, which meant we never got a chance to unleash our backs in space.

Our attacking patterns will be a step faster, our passes a little crisper (unpopular opinion – Will Genia was below his best and his passes were too often an inch behind where they needed to be. That will change this week). Bring it on.

Ireland will be better too

They played below their best, and they know it. I expect them to bring all their big guns back, and be a bit more prepared to counter our game plan. Sexton will be key, but Gary Ringrose will be important too, and they will undoubtedly look to work the 12-13 channel far harder than they did in Brisbane.

I’d also expect them to be more dynamic in the contact zone – an area where they were out enthused by the younger Wallaby pack. With the sizeable Irish diaspora behind them, they will be coming back harder than ever, and it sets up an enticing match in Melbourne.

The Irish fans will come back better as well

The Irish fans will come back better as well

Ruck pressure tells

David Pocock has been rightly showered with praise for his efforts at the ruck on the weekend. But the reality is he’s just the leader of a very capable band of breakdown performers. The Michael Jackson of our Jackson 5 – accompanied ably by Jermaine (Brendon Paega-Amosa), Tito (Michael Hooper), Jackie (Caleb Timu) and Marlon (Pete Samu). Together they recorded their own version of ‘I’ll Be There’ – whenever the Irish carriers went to ground, they were there.

It was this ruck pressure that laid the foundations for our brick-wall defensive effort. More often than not, the Irish had to commit 3-4 cleaners to ensure clean ball, and this bought us crucial seconds at every phase. This allowed us time to set our line and come up as a unit, cutting off any wider channels.

The few occasions where Ireland managed to secure quick ball was when they looked most dangerous. Against a backpedalling line they found half-gaps and freed their arms to offload. It’s key that we repeat this tactic in Melbourne, and find a referee who lets us push the boundaries without sanction.

Midfield defence

Our biggest weakness coming into the game was backline defence. Neither Samu Kerevi nor Kurtley Beale are noted defenders, and we risked being exposed in midfield if they didn’t bring their A games to the table.

To their credit, they were both outstanding. I don’t recall seeing a better defensive game from Beale in the last decade. His read and tackle on Conor Murray was brilliant, and secured a penalty at a crucial time. Kerevi was also brilliant, making numerous big hits that held the Irish backs behind the advantage line.

I’m not ready to herald them as ‘rock solid’ just yet, but if they can back it up this weekend it will go a long way to plugging a major hole in our XV as we approach the World Cup.

Bench Pigs

One of the defining features of our run at the 2015 World Cup was the performance of our bench unit, particularly in the front row. Last Saturday bought back those pleasant memories, with Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu and Taniela Tupou shifting the momentum of the game with a number of key plays.

Tupou, as we all suspected, is the real deal. And I was derided in my pre-match article when I said that Robertson was playing some of his best rugby for the Waratahs. Well to those commenters (you know who you are) I say this – EAT YOUR WORDS. Not only was his scrummaging up to the task, but he made a number of key carries as well.

They were backed up by good efforts from Samu and Rob Simmons. I don’t blame Rob for spilling that pass, it was behind his hip and he would have done well to hold it. He made a number of big hits and good carries, too.

Sidebar - I bloody love Marika as well

Sidebar – I bloody love Marika as well

Ref Karma

I thought Marius van der Westhuizen had a good game. He allowed the game to flow pretty well and made no real clangers. David Pocock could consider himself a bit unlucky, but that comes with the territory when you play an on-ball game.

The decision to overturn our try in the second half was obviously a talking point, but I struggle to blame Marius for that decision. Under the Laws the right call was made. My issue is with the guidelines that allow them to make it – acts of foul play can be called by the TMO at any time. Maybe it’s time to limit this to acts that meet the threshold for a yellow card, because while Adam Coleman committed a clear penalty, it didn’t come close to warranting a yellow card and it didn’t really have a tangible impact on the game.

The karma we earned from that came back to help us in the closing minutes, when the marginal calls began to fall our way. The refs giveth, and the refs taketh away…

Stadium atmosphere

It was my first trip to Suncorp, and I had a great time. The steep high walls of the stadium allow the noise to reverberate well, and there are no bad seats. It was easy to get to the game, and it’s so close to the city.

However I do have one bone to pick. There were a number of stoppages where the ground was just… silent. No music, no announcements, no commentary. The crowd were there to be roused, but nothing ever happened.

Key moments were missed – Pete Samu’s debut wasn’t even acknowledged as he replaced Caleb Timu. Johnny Sexton’s arrival in the game was similarly ignored. The TMO struggles were never explained, either. My girlfriend was constantly asking me for explanations when the play stopped, and these should have come from the ground announcer.

As an aside, we need to work out some sort of chant that our nation can get behind. What is our ‘We. Are. Red’ or ‘New. South. Wales’ cry? The Irish fans found their voice, but where was ours? This is where the bloke on the PA needed to step up and stoke us into action. Alas, we were left un-stoked.

But aside from that minor grievance, I had an amazing time. And Brisbane is a surprisingly beautiful city.

Then again, everything looks beautiful on the morning after a Wallaby victory.

  • Missing Link

    Good write up, summed it up perfectly. So much promise in so many areas, areas where we have been weak in the past – debutants not up to it, scrum going backwards, injuries.

    Ireland will start Sexton at 10 next week and they will be a different beast. They seemed a bit rudderless beforehand.

  • onlinesideline

    Ground announcemets for subs / TMOs yes, but the music IMO should be canned entirely while the match is being played including stoppages.
    The modern day obsession with dumpf, dumpt, dumpt to cover every f…king moment of life is driving ppl nuts. You hear it when you are buying shoes, when you go out to eat, when you are taking a crap. Even more relevant to sporting events it has killed off the human voice. While the Poms, Welsh and Irish sing and chant occasionally, I bet you there would be more if the top 40 wasnt played at every break.

    As far as the aussie crowds go, it amazes me that we dont have at a bare minimum, just simply, in serious drives for the line moments / mauls etc, an AAAAAussie, AAAAAAussie AAAAAAussie in slow rythym ( not the oy oy oy) in same way its done in aussie soccer, who go absolutely off. It must be an Australin rugby thing because I have heard this done very loud at big stadiums and it sounds great. 50 000 peopel doing this is amazing and its an expression known worldwide and its NOT HARD TO REMEMBER – ffs. We truly are useless.

    • Will

      yeah the chant needs to be a simple one, that even a trollied wallaby fan can belt out. “OH ZEE….. OH ZEE…..OH ZEE…..OH ZEE…..OH ZEE” continuous without the OI OI bit would be my choice

    • joy

      The Kiwis struggled against the Poms last year too. A crisp Black Black Black would have done the trick. So the fix for both countries goes like this:

      Aussie Aussie Aussie
      Black Black Black
      Aussie Black
      Aussie Black
      Aussie Aussie Aussie
      Black Black Black
      repeated ad infinitum.

    • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

      Totally agree Online, the music and ground announcer trying to rev up the crowd is just annoying and detracts from and kills the real atmosphere. I was at the game and was pleasantly surprised at how little of this rubbish there was compared to previous years. How can the crowd keep up any singing etc if it’s drowned out by music etc at every instance. I’d rather they cut the power to the speakers entirely, and leave it all up to the crowd. Then we’d have pure, beautiful, unadulterated atmosphere.

      • onlinesideline

        back when you only heard claps when a try was scored and a furthur clap for the returning try scorer. No scull thumping noise pollution killing the moment.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNP4RpegRNU

    • Who?

      My daughter was freezing (crazy, I know – she was exhausted), so she enjoyed the fireballs on Saturday night. :-)

  • BigNickHartman

    That Jackson 5 metaphor deserves it’s own Photoshop

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice writeup Hugh and a good summary of what was an excellent game. I must admit I agree with almost everything you say and it was a real pleasure to watch KB and Kerevi step up so well in defence. I think they are developing the combination needed for Japan next year and I hope they stay together. I still think KB works better in space and would be a better 15 but good to see this game and I hope it continues.

    To me the biggest issue will be how Ireland responds next week. Can the Wallabies continue to improve and will Ireland look at what they did wrong – and they did a lot, and make the changes.

    I thought the referee was quite good. I didn’t agree with the very first penalty of the game as I thought it was actually just a case of Izzy jumping higher and then tipping over the player. The Irish player didn’t attempt a tackle in the air at all he was just competing for the kick but didn’t get as high as Izzy. I personally think we need to be careful here as penalties need to be called on what happened not on the result or we’ll start going down the field of any tackle that is good gets penalised. You know in a game where there is hard physical contact sometimes shit just happens and we need to accept that.

    The bench was good as well and that was pleasing as so many times in the past the bench has come on and some of the play has slipped. Really looking forward to next week now only this time it won’t be watching it in a pub with no sound like Saturday.

    • Mart

      the contest in the air looked okay until Kearney realised he’d lost contest and turned attention from ball to grabbing izzy in air

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        But he never actually grabbed Izzy.

        • Mart
        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Mate I saw that but it was him grabbing Izzy after he landed on him. He’s already falling in that pic.

        • Greg

          Does the law say that it is OK to tackle them on the way down? :-)

        • joy

          Having grabbed him I’d expect Kearney would break his fall. Instead he just dropped and watched!

        • Andy

          You don’t need to grab them. Pretty sure the law states you must ensure the safety of the man in the air, or something like that. If you jump for the ball and turn your back to protect yourself, that’s still a penalty

        • Braveheart81

          The player in the air gets protection under the laws. It wasn’t a good, fair contest because only one player was ever in a position to catch the ball. Kearney was lucky not to be yellow carded. He’s entirely in the wrong.

  • juswal

    Sounds like a good trip away, Hugh – thanks for the report. It’s a shame you had to mansplain the stoppages to the girlfriend.

    I don’t want any music during matches. Especially not ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Thunderstruck’, and definitely not ‘Horses’. Of course it’s worse in NZ, where they own only one record – ‘Slice of Heaven’. Imagine when they can download it too!

    • Missing Link

      before I finished reading your post, I already had “ba da bap boom boom da da dup boom boom” playing in my head

    • Fatflanker

      They’ve trotted out ‘Cocaine’ once or twice as well and I fully expect the Reds will be hearing it again in the near future!

  • Nutta

    Cheers Hugh. I reckon you’re pretty spot-on particularly regarding the Championship minutes and the building of maturity.

  • mikado

    Great stuff Hugh.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Hey Hugh, I am glad that my beloved adopted state and home town showed you a good time. I truly believe Suncorp (lang Park) is the best Rugby stadium in Aus. Dont get me wrong, the MCG is the best all round stadium in Aus, but Suncorp is the best for ruggers.
    Like you I am sure that the real Irish will turn up this week, and we will see if last week was a flash in the pan for us, or the start of the trun around.
    Next time you are coming up, let me know earlier, and I will gather the crew for a few drinks and intorduce you to the gang up here.

  • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

    Good write up Hugh!

    The biggest take away for me was the Wallaby defence. Such a contrast to last year. Not only a high tackle rate, and successfully keeping the slimes tryless (well, on the score board anyway), but the best part, which is usually completely missing…so many low tackles that smashed them backwards… have they been training for this this week?!

    Only disagree on your desire for more horrible rubbish from the ground announcer. Kill it entirely, and let the natural atmosphere reign. And carry on enjoying explaining things to your gf, she loves it anyway.

  • Caeliv Donnelly

    Looking at the picture of some of our expats in those ridiculous suits – I’m nearly glad we lost. Why do some people insist on embarrassing us on the world stage.

    • Fatflanker

      Be thankful mate – you don’t have to claim Phil Kearns.

  • Fatflanker

    Excellent write-up. I’ll put my hand up for doubting Robertson and happy to eat my words. No mean feat getting one over that Irish bench – came across a recent photo of a cranky-looking Tadhg Furlong before the game and started having Sheridan flashbacks!

  • Big Ted

    Great post Hugh. Thought your 2nd point was particularly poignant. Keep ‘em coming

  • Greg
    • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

      Endeth with a lot of people continuing to be furious about the inconsistencies in the application of the laws I’d imagine.

    • Who?

      Mate, first off, wrong thread (this is about the Brisbane game, not Auckland), and secondly, this is the second time you’ve tried to end discussion. None of us have the right to do that (well, moderators, maybe). The discussion is dying out, trying to tell people to stop talking about something is only likely to spark it up again… :-

  • Ulrich

    I am very happy Australia won. It is important that the SH shows some bite too. I hope AUS and SA win their series. We know NZ will win theirs.

  • Seaweed

    Re. the ‘song’, at RWC 2015 v England those in gold (mostly in one place) sang Waltzing Matilda as we ground the men in white into the Twickenham grass. Works a treat; it’s tuneful, authentically us and reverberates around a stadium. We all know how to sing it and what the words are (and what it’s about … a suicidal sheep thief and his ghost!) It has the potential to be our ‘Swing Low’. Towards the end of that game, after Beale, Bernard and co. had worked their magic, we started singing ‘Swing Low’ back to the Poms … even they thought it was funny and they were getting dusted by about 20 points …

    • Who?

      It should always be used when playing Kiwis. Singing about sheep, might distract ‘em…

  • Who?

    Baabaa, great to finally see a columnist – anywhere – mention Simmo wasn’t to blame for Genia’s pass.
    Also, given you were at the game, did you see the ‘TRY’ sign up on the board when the Wallabies were about 10m out from the tryline before Henshaw bundled the ball carrier (far end of the field!) into touch?

    • Hugh Cavill

      Yes I did! What a blunder.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    I hope you’re right that Australia gets better, but since about 08 when Deans took over one of the Wallabies’ chronic failures has been their inability to put on good performances back to back. Too often a top class performance is followed by a dud one.

    Last year we saw it after our fantastic Bledisloe 2 performance where we had a draw with an awful South African side in an awful game.

    Solid win over Wales was followed by a measly performance against England and an atrocious one against Scotland.

    Even in the RWC we had a fantastic match against England only to play pretty averagely against Wales and then really, really poorly against Scotland.

    However, you’re right that we should have our combinations gel better, and if Cheika can get us to play like that two weeks in a row, or improve, then that would go a long way towards indicating that the Wallabies are back, and that Cheika has overcome his issues and is doing a very good job.

  • John R

    My quick two cents on the ref.

    1: The Hooper neck spike. C’mon mate.
    2: It felt like any time the Paddies were going for the choke tackle, he’d call maul after approximately 0.5 seconds. From memory we secured the ball because there was so much momentum on our side that it fell to ground naturally and the ball was presented (probably because it was never a maul in the first place), but yeah found it odd he was so quick to call it.

    Otherwise can’t really complain. I texted my brother when that try got disallowed ‘Almost glad of that terrible call, will fire the boys up’ 6 minutes later I texted him again ‘Fuck yeah!!’ so I’m guessing that was Pocock’s try.

    Cracking test. Proper brutal hard work test match rugby. Can’t wait for Melbourne.

    • Who?

      I didn’t hear the maul calls (couldn’t hear anything from him at the ground), but there were a lot of mauls created and rapidly sacked. The second an Aussie supporter bound onto the tackle, it’s technically a maul. Most refs are actually slower to call maul than they should…
      Feels weird to defend the ref – feel kind of dirty! :-

      • John R

        Ah got ya mate. Got ya. I wasn’t aware of that technicality tbh, fair play to Marius there. Still seemed quick to call it, but if he’s reffing by the laws, you can’t complain too much can you!

        • Who?

          Can always complain! :-D
          Even if not about the ref, about the laws…

        • John R

          Well whilst we’re on it!

          Surely Sam Lousi would feel hard done by how much extra graft he has to do to get a maul called in Super Rugby. He’s holding blokes up for a good 5-6 seconds before he gets the call!

        • Who?

          Exactly. And the fight to create mauls has increased due to the new jackal and ruck laws put in place last year. Before last November, there was no ruck until there was a player from each side, so it didn’t really matter if a defender allowed a player to get to ground. In fact, it was an advantage, because the tackler could regain his feet and pilfer from anywhere. Or choose not to engage. That choice meant that defenders had less pressure to get onside, because it was more possible to slow the ball, or to delay the formation of an offside line
          Now, it’s critical not to allow an attacker to get to ground, because a team mate will immediately lie down atop him (because we so rarely penalize for sealing off these days – Marius did twice on the weekend, I think) and form a ruck, preventing a jackal contest and immediately creating offside lines. The lack of a jackal contest and the sealing off ensure quick ball and add massive pressure for defensive lines regaining onside positions.
          But there’s absolutely no requirement for time or movement for the formation of a maul, only that two players – one from each team – be bound onto a ball carrier and all are on their feet.

  • John R
Rugby

A pretty average writer and an even worse player. Subbies struggler, supporter of the 2014 Super Rugby Champions.

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