Wallabies 25 – Springboks 17
THE Wallabies dominated this rugby game. Unfortunately though, for most of the test it was in the wrong way. Except for the 35 minutes around half-time, Australia did a great job of giving it away.
Overall, I don’t know what to make of this test . On one hand I almost want to write to the team and ask them for the 25 minutes of my life back that I spent watching the most boring ending of any football match I can remember.
Going 8 points up and ringing the changes in the pack from the bench took all rhythm out of the game. The Wallabies seemed to forget how to clear out and protect the ruck, which is the lynch-pin of their continuity game. This was all extremely frustrating, because at this time Australia should have been breaking loose and rack up a few more tries.
On the other hand, at no time, even when 17-0 down after 14 minutes, did the Wallabies look like they were going to lose. Even in the first 20 minutes, in which South Africa scored all of their points against an error ridden Australia, there was an encouraging (over?)confidence and pace about their game. There were also two excellent re-start steals (even though one of them directly led to the Paulse intercept try).
In the middle of the game, it suddenly all clicked, as if the Wallabies had turned on a class tap. This was the same form that they had showed against the ABs the week before. Like New Zealand, the Springboks couldn’t live with it; yellow cards and tries soon followed. Gerrard’s first phase try, beautifully orchestrated by the Brumbies quartet of himself, Gregan, Larkham and Mortlock, was out of he top draw. The established combinations and time spent together over this season are starting to show.
In the end, the Wallabies won this game relatively comfortably, if not frustratingly. Again, they’ve shown the composed self-confidence, so integral to our best sides and so lacking of late. It’s no wonder that even some their harsher critics are starting to note them as RWC dark horses, like Stuart Barnes in the Sunday Times:
“Most impressive of all is the way the Wallabies refuse to panic when behind. It was 17-0 after the first quarter in Sydney, 15-6 behind at half-time against New Zealand and 14 down after 10 minutes against Wales, and Australia recovered from all these recent situations because of their ability to retain ball for long periods of play.The effect is to starve the opposition of the ball and make a mockery of those who believe that the absence of a dominant scrum takes them out of the equation.”
The All Blacks are still the team to beat by a distance, but Australia are solid enough and smart enough to merit the most serious consideration.
Couldn’t agree more Stuart.
AUSTRALIA 25 (Mark Gerrard, Stephen Hoiles, Matt Giteau tries; Stirling Mortlock 2 cons 2 pens) bt SOUTH AFRICA 17 (Wikus Van Heerden, Breyton Paulse tries; Derick Hougaard 2 cons pen) at Telstra Stadium. Referee: Paul Honiss (NZL). Crowd: 51,174.
Photo from Rugbyheaven