The Wallabies have put away Uruguay, eventually, with 45-10 win in Oita. The final scoreline suggests a comfortable win in the end but it was a real scratchy performance with the first half in particular not likely to please coach Michael Cheika.
There were some pleasing aspects of the game with debutant Jordan Petaia playing a solid 40 minutes with a try and a try assist. Doubles to Dane Haylett-Petty and Tevita Kuridrani combined with a strong performance from Jack Dempsey saw the Wallabies finally pull away in the second half after leading 19-3 at half time.
But there were some glaring problems including high contact in tackles, which has been an ongoing topic throughout the tournament, claiming two more Wallabies with Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto receiving yellow cards for high shots in the first half.
It was a fast start for the Wallabies as they scored the opening try within five minutes to Dane Haylett-Petty after an earlier penalty that Uruguay did well to stop initially but Matt Toomua found the space out wide for Haylett-Petty.
On the back of a number of penalties, Uruguay found themselves in the Wallabies 22 and a high shot from Michael Hooper saw Felipe Berchesi with an easy penalty goal.
The high tackle problem continued straight off the restart with Adam Coleman given a yellow card from referee Mathieu Raynal for a high shot that after recent events, shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
Uruguay were doing their best to slow down the ball at the breakdown and frustrate the Wallabies and with a one-man advantage even managed a tighthead from a five-metre scrum after Michael Hooper was earlier held up over the line. The work from the Wallabies forwards was a bit suspect as the Uruguayans managed to get the shove on and get themselves out of trouble.
There was much talk in the leadup about the debut of Jordan Petaia and although it took him 23 minutes to get his hands on the ball for the first time, his second touch resulted in a try after an inside ball from Kurtley Beale after stepping into first receiver.
It seemed the crackdown on high tackle wasn’t being listened to by the Wallabies with Kurtley Beale penalised for a high shot after a Uruguay attacker beat three defenders down the left wing and then Lukhan Salakaia-Loto went high and received a yellow card for his troubles.
The dream debut for Petaia continued on the 30-minute mark with a backline move out to the left wing and he danced through the defenders and setup Tevita Kuridrani for the third Wallabies try of the half.
The Wallabies were let off the hook after TMO Ben Skeen intervened after Uruguay outside centre Tomas Inciarte looked to have scored after swopping on a loose ball at the ruck after a box kick but Skeen ruled that Uruguay number 8 Manuel Diana was never onside to let Australia escape with a 19-3 lead at the break after a below average performance.
There were two subs at the break with Petaia benched for Adam Ashley-Cooper with Petaia’s recent workload the reason after coming back from a hamstring injury. Taniela Tupou also came on in place of Allan Alaalatoa and made an impact around the fringes with some strong running.
Five minutes into the half the Wallabies claimed their bonus point with Kuridrani scoring his second off a well worked decoy move from a lineout just near halfway.
Similar to the Fiji game, the Wallabies more direct play in the second half started paying dividends with Jack Dempsey getting in on the act with a spin move combined with a strong fend to find Will Genia to score after he only just coming onto the field.
With the game looking more comfortable, the Wallabies tightened the screws on Uruguay as Genia started to control the ruck with smart game management. Kuridrani went close to scoring his hat-trick but was held up but it was left to James Slipper to finally get off the try scoring mark in his 94th Test with Dempsey again heavily involved in the leadup to make it 40-3 after 60 minutes.
Haylett-Petty bagged his double and the Wallabies seventh of the game with 13 minutes to go to stretch the margin to beyond 40. There was one last push from Uruguay and after 18 phases, Manuel Diana was awarded the try for a final margin of 35 points.
The Game Changer
The second half. The first half wasn’t one of the best performances from the Wallabies and it was the change of tactics in the second half that got them back on track.
The G&GR MOTM
Tevita Kuridrani got the official award for his double but Jack Dempsey gets the coveted GAGR award. His work when the Wallabies needed it most in the second half was crucial to getting them back on track and the work in the leadup to Will Genia’s try is an example of that.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Kuridrani 2, Haylett-Petty 2, Petaia, Genia, Slipper
Conversions: Lealiifano 5
13 mins – Coleman (Wallabies) – Yellow
28 mins – Salakaia-Loto (Wallabies) – Yellow