For me, the Wallabies losing to England is worse than if they lose to New Zealand. What was even worse for me was the fact that it wasn’t even close – England were completely dominant.
If England can keep that sort of game going over the next twelve months they’ll definitely be a threat to the Southern Hemisphere teams at next years RWC and it’s also likely that the next time the Wallabies meet England will be in a RWC semi-final.
So let’s look for some positives from the match to help us all feel a little better.
Let’s start with the scoreboard. England might have come out on top on the scoreboard but the Wallabies and England each scored two tries and the scoreboard tells us the difference between the two teams came down to goal kicking. If we dig a little further, the score would have been 35-29 if James O’Connor had kicked at 100% like Toby Flood. That doesn’t sound too bad if you’re a Wallaby supporter – a few metres either way as the ball sailed past the posts and we’d have had a six point ball game! Who knows – with a bit more help from the referee the Wallabies could have snatched that game!
Okay, that doesn’t really work, does it! Let’s try looking at the statistics for some ray of light.
First up, there is some good news – we beat England at the kickoffs. After being taught some very harsh lessons in this area by New Zealand during the Tri-Nations this year, we’ve improved and regained possession 4 of the 10 times we kicked off to England whilst retaining possession on all 4 kickoffs by England. Oh, we had to kick off 10 times to England’s 4 – that doesn’t sound that good anymore.
What about the scrum? We held our own, didn’t we? Okay, that’s inconclusive.
Lineouts? Not too bad but the Wallabies were hardly dominant.
We won the possession battle – well sort of! Our statistics show that the Wallabies started possession 44 times compared to only 43 for England. That’s a small win but then you look at the fact that the Wallabies kicked the ball 52% of the times they had possession compared to England’s 40% and it’s clear which team was really making the most of their time in possession.
At the breakdown the Wallabies actually retained more ball than England – 95% to 94%. Then I watch the footage of English players swarming in and cleaning out past the ball, whereas the Wallabies were only cleaning out to the ball, which invites the opposition into a contest and I wonder how the Wallabies were even able to compete at the breakdown. Thank god for David Pococok!
Unfortunately it’s now time to deal with the Wallabies defence. The 85% completion rate by the Wallabies wasn’t their worst performance of the year – they manged only 82% on two occasions during the Tri-Nations. The 33 tackles missed by the Wallabies was their worst this year! Beyond the numbers, the defence was terrible and it seems to me that it’s getting worse. Quade Cooper did only miss 6 tackles so that could be considered an improvement! Ben Alexander shared the trophy with Quade this week for most tackles missed. On the positive side, Rocky Elsom, Nathan Sharpe and Stephen Moore were all quite good in defence with Kurtley Beale the standout in the backs.
It was David Pococok who was once again exceptional in defence, leading the tackle count, having a 100% completion record and being second only to Rocky in the number of dominant tackles made.
Overall Kurtley Beale, Stephen Moore and Nathan Sharpe played well and I thought that was Rocky Elsom’s best game for some time.
There’s no escaping the single most important factor why England won the game – dominance. Dominance in every area – they out thought the Wallabies, they out enthused the Wallabies, they out muscled the Wallabies and the Wallabies didn’t seem to have any answers.
If England play like that, there’s no team in the world they can’t beat, including New Zealand at their best.
From the Wallabies point of view, it’s a big reality check. Every team has bad days and maybe that’s what it was, so I hope the Wallabies can bounce back in a big way next week against Italy.
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