Wallabies defeat spirited Fiji in Melbourne - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallabies defeat spirited Fiji in Melbourne

Wallabies defeat spirited Fiji in Melbourne

The Wallabies kicked off their 2017 international campaign with a return to afternoon rugby by taking on the Flying Fijians in Melbourne. After a disappointing 2016 season and a borderline horrendous Super Rugby season, the pressure was on the Aussies to win back the many rugby fans who are so disgruntled with the code at the moment.

For the Fijians it was a rare visit to Australia for a test match, the first since 2010, and a chance to make a strong statement in front of their many Australian based fans and to World Rugby as a whole.

The Match

Despite their short preparation for the test, the Wallabies looked to run the ball wide from the very beginning of the game and managed to find space quite regularly. The approach perhaps caught the visitors on the hop and the Aussies were able to score early when Bernard Foley kicked wide to Israel Folau to claim (kind of) the ball and score a try. It’s a play that the Wallaby fullback would have been a part of on many occasions at this ground in his previous life as a Melbourne Storm player and is surely one of the most underplayed options in the Wallaby arsenal.

The points kept flowing soon after when Henry Speight went over in the corner. The try was scored following a clever inside offload from big Adam Coleman to a charging Scott Higginbotham who found Dane Haylett-Petty outside. The Force fullback then floated a pass out wide which fortuitously found its way to Speight to finish the movement out wide.

After ten minutes it was all Australia and fans could have been forgiven to thinking that they were in for a big Wallaby win. In fact it wasn’t until the fifteenth minute that Fiji attacked when fullback, Kini Murimurivalu, charged his way through the defence only to find tight head prop, Peni Ravai, in support. An aimless kick over the top by scrumhalf, Nikola Matawalu, halted any Fijian drive.

Israel Folau was enjoying some rare space outside and running freely, until a reckless high tackle in the 21st minute saw him sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. It was a momentum changer for the Fijians as they found their way into the match. Rio gold medallist, Leone Nakarawa, was creating havoc at lock while Ravai proved a handful for the Aussie defense. It looked as if Fiji had crossed for their first try from a 5m scrum, however they were penalised for holding onto Hooper at the scrum.

Still on the attack, flyhalf Ben Volavola threw a pass that Foley was able to intercept and run down field with. The play soon died out however a penalty was earned. It was a sign of the pressure the Aussies were under that skipper Hooper opted for the kick, which Foley promptly converted.

The score was 18-0 to the Aussies and that’s the way it would stay until the half. While the Wallabies had come out of the gate hard, the Fijians hung in and were a constant danger on attack without quite making the most of their limited opportunities.


 

The second half took a while to get going however the Aussie set piece was dominant and giving the home team some respite from the pressure they were facing from the off-loading Fijians.

Two missed try opportunities by the Wallabies, one where Speight knocked on another cross field kick and another when Tevita Kuridrani put a foot in touch close to the try line, meant the Aussies had not scored a try for half an hour.

It was that Foley-Folau combination that amended that anomaly soon after. With Karmichael Hunt playing first receiver from a set piece play, Foley drifted wide before dropping a beautiful short pass into Izzy’s lap. Folau dashed 45 odd metres to score his second try of the match and thus equalling the total amount of test 5-pointers he scored last season.

A Fijian in a white jersey soon scored a try of his own when their winger Vereniki Goneva charged through the Australian defence to score a try. It followed a hectic period of play in which both teams attacked, turned over the ball and counter attacked again.

At risk of the game becoming too loose, the Aussies reverted to the tried and tested with a 5m lineout establishing a strong rolling maul from which replacement hooker Stephen Moore was able to score. Moore was joined on the field by the full Australian bench meaning test debuts for Joe Powell and Richard Hardwick (who snaffled a smart pilfer soon after) while starting debutants Hunt and Ned Hanigan played the whole match.

The test ended with two more tries to Fijian wingers – one to Timoci Nagusa and one to Henry Speight and the Aussies finished up with a 37-14 victory.

The Game Changer

The match was never in doubt following the two early Wallaby tries. The Izzy Yellow Card did give Fiji a lift but one they weren’t able to convert into points.

The G&GR MOTM

Folau and Foley looked terrific for the Wallabies, while Genia’s return to Australia was a worthy trip. Up front Coleman and Alaalatoa were powerful. Fiji were best served by Ravai and Nakarawa. I’m giving this one to the big lock forward Leone Nakarawa who was a handful every time his mammoth hands touched the ball.


The Details

Score & Scorers

Wallabies 37
Tries: Folau 2, Speight 2, Moore
Conversions: Foley 3
Penalties: Foley 2
Fiji 14
Tries: Goneva, Nagusa
Conversions: Volavola 2
Penalties:

Cards

21st minute – Folau – Yellow

Crowd

13,583

Australia

1. Tom Robertson
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Sam Carter
5. Adam Coleman
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Will Genia
10. Bernard Foley
11. Henry Speight
12. Karmichael Hunt
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Dane Haylett-Petty
15. Israel Folau

Replacements

16. Stephen Moore
17. Toby Smith
18. Sekope Kepu
19. Rory Arnold
20. Richard Hardwick
21. Joe Powell
22. Quade Cooper
23. Reece Hodge

Fiji

1 Campese Maáfu
2 Sunia Koto
3 Peni Ravai
4 Tevita Cavubati
5 Leone Nakarawa
6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu
7 Naulia Dawai
8 Akapusi Qera (c)
9 Nikola Matawalu
10 Ben Volavola
11 Vereniki Goneva
12 Jale Vatubua
13 Albert Vulivuli
14 Timoci Nagusa
15 Kini Murimurivalu

Replacements
16 Tuapati Talemaitoga
17 Joeli Veitayaki
18 Kalivati Tawake
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Viliame Mata
21 Nemani Nagusa
22 Seurpepeli Vularika
23 Benito Masilevu

  • Nicholas

    Not a bad first effort for the the 2017 bunch. I’d say par perhaps a little under. None of the debutants looked out of place.

    Piggies need to lower their body height and backs need to catch and pass.

    No one was outstanding and no one terrible, the ball didn’t seem to get to DHP much though. Nice touches here and there across the park.

    Don’t think the AB’s would be to worried based on that performance, but it’s a platform to build upon.

    There did seem to be a lot of empty seats in the stadium I doubt the ARU would be pleased with only 13 and a half, but in the current situation what can they expect.

    Not sure if there will be too many changes next weekend maybe Carter and Arnold swap… Thoughts???

  • Brumby Runner

    Thanks Reg. The only point I’d disagree with you is in respect of Will Genia. I thought he was somewhat below par in his decision making. Had a couple of kicks charged down as well, and at times reverted to his two step dance before unloading the pass.

    Surprisingly, I saw Michael Hooper miss probably about 5 or 6 tackles (might have been more). He can do better.

    The newbies all played well but a little disappointing in Hanigan’s game. Tried hard but had very little impact, despite looking busy all game.

    Hunt at 12 made a couple of mistakes but all in all it was a promising effort in his first test in an unfamiliar spot.

  • Greg

    The Fijians played well and in a very positive spirit. In years gone by they often became very ill-disciplined later in the game.

    Their ability to keep the ball alive was extraordinary. Are they fantastic…. or was it poor tackling?

    • Simon

      They’re fantastic – it’s what makes them so good at Sevens.

      Might have been a few poor tackles that helped them out too. Our defence coach is not impressing me.

      • J A R

        They were awesome with ball in hand and always wanted to play! I love watching teams play that style. To be fair, both sides wanted to run the ball. Really good afternoon.

      • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

        Interesting listening to John Eales post match about the D, and he thought it wasn’t so much technique as it was about Attitude. I hope I’m not hearing ‘it’s easily fixed’ but just expressed differently.
        The ‘attitude’ reference is often made, and people like me accept it without much thought. But maybe I should question ‘which aspect of the attitude is being referred to’ because it seems to me to vary. There’s the attitude of ‘you’re not getting past me you bastard’ and the one of getting up quickly after a tackle and getting back in the fight. So maybe one day an interviewer will ask for clarification, rather than just assume it’s all the same.

        • Adrian

          I think the attitude he’s talking about is a bit more desperation in the actual tackle. Hanging on for dear life sort of thing,…digging in the fingernails. Often the technique looked good, but they fell off. Fiji guys very hard to tackle

        • idiot savant

          Yes thy are hard to tackle. Big men who can change direction quickly. A lot of the missed tackles stats are misleading. Often the tackler who ‘missed’ slowed the momentum or knocked the player over. Fiji couldn’t get over the paint until fatigue set in after 3 quarters. I thought until the last quarter that was one of out best defensive performances for a long time. I don’t think any of it had anything to do with Grey, though Im sure Cheika will try and spin that it did. It had to do with Hunt showing everyone the standard, and the forwards particularly Coleman, AA, TPN and Higgers getting through a lot of impact work.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          At this level if their attitude is wrong they should be replaced. What a stupid cop out. I disagree 100%. The defence is crap because no one seems to know what their role is and they shuffle around too much. Just play in your position and friggen tackle. It’s actually not that hard

  • Andrew Luscombe

    The Fijians looked less prepared than the Wallabies. It took them 15-20 minutes to get themselves sorted. I think it was this rather than Folau being sent off that changed the play.

    After then it was a 22-14 game, competitive and interesting styles of play with big breaks – very entertaining.

    The crowd being let onto the field after with some players staying out to sign autographs and some Fijians walking in the crowd was a big success. Plenty of footies flying about and a few kids sliding on the advertising on the grass to see how dirty they can get is always a good thing. The viva 7 girls at halftime was fun too. Good to see a winger doing cartwheels for no apparent reason. The arvo match was definitely well appreciated by those who went.

    Overall a very fun day at the rugby.

  • Andy

    Entertaining game. Defense needs serious work though

  • Brisneyland Local

    RR, normally I agree with most things that you write, but I have to be a little different here. We got lucky early, and after that I thought the Fijians tested us. Lucky it wasnt the All Blacks. Becuase they would have have done very nasty things to us.
    BLL’s points in no particular order:
    – Folau yellow card was deserved. whilst I dont agree with it, the new rules clearly state, therefore off he went.
    – Fiji’s ability to offload never fails to amaze me. Bloody marvellous, and really tested our defence. Whilst on the topic of defence, Nathan Grey must go. That was not good enough!
    – Special K, had a great game. Personally I think better than Foley and Folau. His defence was up there with the best. So many tackles. His play making at 12 needs a little work, but considering he has played 15 all year, he did well, very well.
    – The Fijians are far more disciplined than previous years. If this trend continues they will soon become a top ten team.
    – Foley’s kicking (in play) is still shit. Fuck me, not finding touch twice. He is an international 10. Seriously. His distributions was good, but that kicking game is bad.
    – Our scrum was average, a pass but still not as dominant as it needs to be.
    – Our new bench 9 (Joe Powell) looks like he is wearing eye liner. For god sake, he isnt Ma’a Nonu!
    – Will G looked a little rusty, but reasonably quick passes. But that bloody box kick.
    – Hoooper missed a few tackles, but his work rate as always was high.

    Still a lot of work to do!

    • Who?

      Completely agree BLL. But needed to write three things.
      1. If you’re 6’5″, you don’t jump into a tackle when you’re the tackler!!! How on earth Folau was ever going to end up with a result other than a YC when he’s jumping to tackle someone shorter than his is beyond me.
      2. For mine, for his defensive workrate and solidity, and for his distribution, I’d have Hunt as the best of the Wallabies. Up there with Coleman and Arnold. An unqualified success for Cheika in his selection at 12. KRL – Hunt has a kicking game, it’s clearly not Cheika’s policy for 12’s to take clearing kicks (as Hodge didn’t do it last year, and Hodge has a boot that makes many look like 10 year olds). Hunt’s done plenty of kicking for the Reds this year.
      3. Folau’s second try. That’s a big win to Bernie. First phase, clearly set piece play. The ball wasn’t ever going to anyone but Folau – watch Foley’s eyes. So there wasn’t huge deception in the playmaking. But the line Folau was on (which, on first phase set play, comes from set up position, which comes from the coach), and the fact that Rugby has recently been far too dominated by the second man play (the pass to Foley was a second man play) and Foley had Hooper and DHP sweeping a hard overs line meant that the play was designed to draw the defence’s attention away from the blatantly obvious in front of them (Folau – isn’t our game plan usually ‘Give it to Israel’?), and the line from the front man did enough in terms of being against the grain to get him through the hole. Great stuff Bernie – more of it please!
      Other things that don’t NEED to be written, but…
      Hannigan didn’t impress me. Busy, but no big impact. Then again, Fiji’s not the game you want to debut if you’re a loosie. Big collsions, big men – how do you impress when you look at the ‘loose forwards’ game their lock Nakarawa had?! The only way is if you’re a ruck dog…
      Hardwick had a pretty handy start though – impact from his first touch (ripping the ball from the receiver at a restart).
      Foley’s intercept looked really familiar. 10 takes a great intercept on a wide ball with a massive overlap outside (i.e. take it or they score), but doesn’t have the gas to get home… Just a shame he couldn’t finish it as nicely as the one last month. Nice for him that he was the interceptor, not the intercepted this time! Nice he had the courage to go for it.
      And Hunt’s short ball running sideways to DHP for the loop, followed by the hard charge dead straight upfield in the lead up to Kuridrani’s close no-try… Looked very Quade. Great work from Hunt.
      I got a bit sick of the crossfield kicks on first phase in the 22. Fair enough to pull it out once, and pull it out early (I actually thought Foley had the first one a little long, and Burke was adamant the second one was too high), but it’s a trick play, like Bombay duck. It shouldn’t be your ‘go to’ move.
      I can deal with a team coming back and scoring a couple of points after you’ve dominated the first 20 minutes of a game, but Fiji didn’t overtake in the first half. That said, they won the second half 14-12. Not a great way to finish.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Great response Who. Just got back from a 55km ride in the pissing rain (tip to young players, wont do that again) Am now sitting down with a hot bowl of porridge about to watch the game for the second time. I have noted your points adn am looking for them.
        Have read a few articles on line and they are writing glowing reports about the game. Maybe I have just become a negative nelly, but I thought I saw some still pretty worrisome signs!

        • Nicholas

          There were significant worrisome signs. 34 of them.

          Also can we stop trying to tun out of out 22. A miss pass or a handling error and its 7 points. We wouldnt be doing this against the AB so why do it against any other team? Practice what you are going to do in finals.

          It was nice too see that we took most of the easy 3 though.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Yeah those missed tackles are not a good thing. Especially seeing Hooper miss them, he is usually mister reliable. Foley got a couple of good ones in and slipped off a few too. I thought Hunt was the man in Defence. Running out of the 22 is our only option because Foley cant kick. Hunt can, but they dont like 12’s kicking in the current set up. So run it we will.

        • Brumby Runner

          Hunt showed some very good promise in his Wallabies debut in an unfamiliar spot, and while not being a liability in defense, he is certainly not another Matt Toomua. MT absolutely used to smash the ball runners. I don’t see that same strength in KH.

        • idiot savant

          You’re kidding right? Hunt absolutely dominated the 12 channel ensuring no way through the middle forcing Fiji to go wide (or pick n drive which they did late in the game). Hunt was the cornerstone of the Australian performance in a game where Australia had no ball for long periods, set the standard, and organised the backs all in his first match. That was one of the finest debuts I have ever seen. (And Im a big fan of Matty Toomua btw.)

        • Adrian

          Agree.
          Hunt didn’t just tackle, he organized others, and showed lots of awareness

        • Alister Smith

          I thought Hunt played very well. May not have got a big hit on but some very strong defence and I think the big hits will come. Matt Toomua – you dont realise how many good players we have playing overseas until you see their names in black and white. If we had unlimited money to keep them we would easily fill our five Super teams.

        • Hoss

          Rose coloured glasses BR !! MT could hit hard if he made the tackle, too often went hunting the big hit and either missed / misread the attack and lead to overlaps and more problems for team mates.

        • idiot savant

          or knocked himself out…

      • PeterK

        wallabies won the second half 19-14

        • Who?

          Oops – my bad. Forgot the last try…

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I don’t know why you don’t have your 12 kick, especially when your 10 is crap. That’s one thing Cooper has over Foley in spades and it’ll hurt against a better team.
        I agree defence plan is toast but it appears Grey is untouchable so it’ll be an ongoing issue

        • idiot savant

          We used to. Lynagh used to kick for Ella which helped to make Ella more of a legend as he was only average as a kicker. But these days theres very little to time to kick at 12 with linespeed (offside) defence.

        • Who?

          There’s no reason why, on exit plays, the 12 can’t stand on the opposite side to the 10. Or the 15. It’s down to planning issues that exist in the team whenever Foley’s in the team. It’s as though Cheika thinks that Foley’s the best kicker in the country, and the only option.
          When Quade was at 10 last year, it was more varied. I don’t credit that as being Quade’s positive influence – because it was consistent across several games. So it must’ve been a collaborative decision. Why that can’t be done at all times – to make it easier for Foley (because kicking options spread defensive pressure, which makes it easier for all kickers) – is beyond me.

        • idiot savant

          Good thought. Tho it does telegraph the exit. 10 and 15 used to present exit options in yesteryear but that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore.

        • Seb V

          The Brumbies used to do it all the time with Huxley or Gerrard at 15 while Larkham was at 10, Huxley with his clearing torpedos or Gerrard with his long punts worked wonders. It’s so bloody easy to have a 12 or 15 stand in the pocket instead of your 10. Think every lineout, or scrum you have in your own half, and half the rucks. It’s clearly a coaching/tactic issue, they believe Foley is up to it… he clearly isnt.

        • onlinesideline

          Ella made up for it by being ambidextrous though :)

        • Bernie Chan

          Bizarre is it not…Grey’s defensive approach means players shuffle “here and there” (eg Hooper to the inside channel to cover for Foley, Foley to the wing on defensive lineouts etc etc…) yet we can’t do a simple thing…put a decent kicker at first receiver when coming out of our 22….that could even work as a switch play if the defenders expect Hunt (say…assuming he is the #12…) to kick and drop deep he could run the ball. As others have noted..”Noddy” kicked when he was playing #12 outside of Ella, and he could also run the ball….and they won the Grand Slam!

  • Adrian

    I thought everyone went well against what turned out to be quite determined opposition from Fiji.

    Hunt looked like he belongs, as did Hanigan.

    Powell did well, but spoilt it a bit with a nothing sort of a box kick. Gordon might get bench next week, but Powell needs to stay in the frame.

    Both Folau and DHP played well in the 14/15 hybrid position they share. Folau is obviously immensely talented, and used that talent today.

    All forwards good. Next week I’d start with Arnold and Timani, and have Latu on the bench

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Didn’t think Hanigan looked that good. Maybe it was the moment getting to him but the 6&8 didn’t have as big an impact as I’d like them to have

  • Dally M

    The refereeing group were pretty lenient when it came to the Fijian which helped them stay in the game.

    The were constantly offside, infringed when the Wallabies were hot on attack and how do you make 2 tackles in the one play both on players without the ball & not get carded?

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    A good result if a trifle rusty that is to be expected. Hooper’s comments at the end about leaving a few tries out in the field were correct but overall a good win and some promising plays. The two area I feel that really need looking at are the slow delivery from 9 and the attrocious kicking at 10. Both of those will hurt against better teams.
    Coleman was great as was Arnold when he came on, I thought Hunt did well at 12 but he needs a kicking game as well. I didn’t think Hanigan looked comfortable but he should improve. On the whole a good result but lots of improvement needed in some areas and that’s what I’d expect for first game of the year

    • Brisneyland Local

      KRL, good points. Yeah I think Willy G was a little rusty, but his pass accuracy was pretty good, one or two bad, but above average, and definitely better than shot gun Phipps. Foley’s in game kicking is crap, not finding touch twice is unforgiveable.
      Hunt does have a kicking game, which has been displayed reasonably well at the Reds this year, but I dont think Cheik’s likes his 12’s kicking. But Hunt’s D was the best in the team,

  • Nutta

    The way I see it:
    • Reasonable game by the fronties and esp Taff. Alananan got stood up 3 times defensively. Toby played well once on.
    • Good locks game by all
    • Weak loosies game I thought. No on-balling at all.
    • Gins was predictable and didn’t create enough
    • Foley was sound
    • I thought Hunt was grand. Good 2nd distributor, very sound D and hard on the ball
    • I am a big believer in K’drani at 13 esp as he is the best to service Speight who is our best attacker.
    • DHP to FB and Folau to right wing for me.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Nutta, some good points there. Special K was the man in D wasnt he. Cant be the easiest task defending against the huge Fijians. We were watching the game with my Fijian mates over, as always they were hyper critical of the Fijian team. But I thought after the first 20 mins, the F1J1’s put in a really good game!

    • idiot savant

      You’re right about having no pilferer in the loosies. That really stood out and was a big factor in Fiji having so much ball. I thought Higgers was the best of the loosies. Stayed tight and made a lot of tackles. Hanigan worked hard but was ineffective. Hooper had a rare off day, busy but not as effective as usual.

      • Nutta

        I think Higgers really wants that Wobbly 8 jumper and will do what’s needed to get it – and that means playing tighter especially as he can no longer cruise on lineout skills (we have jumping locks now). Hanigan will get there. He’s not a skills player – he’s a Belter I think and there’s not many 19-20yrs olds who can play Belter. You saw that when they gave him a shake after the disallowed Fijian try off the scrum. Way too passive as most kids would be when getting rag-dolled by men. Give him a few years to harden up and he’ll be there. Hoops is playing his wide-ranging game and that’s obviously why Checks likes him. But that combo means no-one is on-balling. Hardwick showed that straight off with a pinch within 3min of being on. Pocock, Latu or Macca et al would have had a field day and it simply allowed the Fijians to stay in the game way past when they should have.

        The Folau card was according to the current interpretations. That makes it correct. But it certainly wasn’t right or in the best interests of the game.

        BTW – I dunno why we do test matches in Melbourne but thank Christ we are at least doing arvo tests again. It’s gold.

        • Who?

          Nutta, what would you do if you had a team mate who was 6’5″ jumping at blokes when making tackles..? Quade’s rightly copped it for his recent high tackle yellows. But Issy’s got 2″ or 3″ on him, and his was jumping at a ball carrier…
          I’d imagine you’d have Issy in the sandpit tackling ankles all week.

        • Nutta

          Fair enough. It’s poor technique to be sure and needs correcting. For me though, dangerous play etc has a lot to do with intent and you could see from the way he pulled out that there was no intent there.

          I know I’m old fashioned and out of touch but ‘in my day’ (but hey, I still play sometimes…) the best way to stop an offloader is to make the guy timid to raise his arms to offload. More drive and legal-malice in the tackle – eg focus on ribs or left shoulder chasing liver especially – stops offloading. But given the speed being played at these days maybe that’s for a time passed by.

        • MalachyBernard

          Agreed with the arvo test slot. A nice time for a beer and a game.

    • PeterK

      folau is a significantly better attacker than speight

      • idiot savant

        Yeah. I thought Speight had an average day at the office. Sure he scored two tries, but most wingers would’ve scored them. Missed tackles and dropped balls. Not sure if playing his mother country put him off a bit but Id be surprised if he wasn’t under pressure to hold his spot. But then DHP was quiet too.

    • Who?

      Loosies… I don’t think Cheika believes in anyone being on the ball. He didn’t pick anyone to be on the ball – Hooper’s not an on-baller, he’s a tackler (and, given his size and the size of his opponents, it’s understandable he wasn’t up to his usual standards).
      This is an issue I flagged when the squad was named. It’s something that had me concerned the second Pocock’s sabbatical was announced.

  • Mike Thompson

    This article talks about Izzy’s yellow card as being “The Turning Point”. I don’t believe that’s true. Just a coincidence because it happened around the 20 min mark.

    This game simply went to the normal Cheika pattern: his team comes roaring out of the sheds with fire, clear headed purpose and skill, often running rampant for the first 20 mins. Then they fall in a hole and, in the following 60 mins, they limp home with a frustratingly bumbling performance.

    In this game, they were up 18-0 after 20 mins. Then the next 60 mins was roughly a tie (19-14 to Wallabies but only with a late try).

    THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME WITH CHEIKA COACHED TEAMS.

    When he was coaching NSW, this pattern played out in maybe 75% of games. Over and over. If NSW wasn’t comfortably in front after 20 mins, I knew there was trouble.

    Remember last year against England. In the first game of the year, we were up about by two tries in 15mins. Looked unbeatable. Fire, skill, organisation, purpose. But then lost the game in the next bumbling 60 mins.

    • idiot savant

      You make a good point here. Im not sure its confined to Cheika coached teams though. The Reds have been run over in the last 20 in every game they have played this season. There is a mental dimension to being switched on under fatigue as well. Ive rabbited on before about Cooper and how he seems to zone out after about 50 minutes.

      Just a wild theory (and too late to be put into practice this season) – I think Australian sides need to do a lot less weight lifting in the gym and do lots more interval running training on heavy wet ground (just like the tracks the kiwis train on). My phys ed mates tell me interval training trains the body to clear lactic acid faster and give you more speed under fatigue. They don’t need any more upper body muscle but they do need to run harder in the last 20.

    • joy

      I don’t mind the Wallabies limping home over the last 60 minutes while scoring 3 good tries.

  • Stin

    I agree with most commentary here. Nakarawa is an absolute star.

    I thought 1 big disappointment was Higginbotham. He wasn’t awful but Another missed opportunity for him in gold I reckon.

    Arnold comes in for Carter, Timani for Higgas, Latu for Moore (unlikely) and Gordon for Powell.

    • Adrian

      Agree re Higginbotham. He did keep tight though, which would be what Cheika wanted. I’d try Timani v Scotland, but keep Higginbotham on the bench. Higginbotham didn’t try any risky kicks either, which Cheika would have liked

      • first time long time

        It was interesting to hear Cheika say about Higgers last week that he wanted him to keep doing what he has been doing. Alleluia!
        Not change to play a different game.
        If you want a different game I say pick a different player.
        I think Higgers is a guy who will worry defences and create space for others because he is more often than not in motion giving playmakers an option or running onto the ball hard.
        We have had too many forwards for too long who think it is good enough to move the breakdown a metre or two to the side instead of busting a gut to bend/break the line

    • idiot savant

      Don’t agree re Higginbotham. He was instrumental in one try and involved in a number of attacking raids. He also worked incredibly hard – made more tackles than Hooper and he didn’t play the full 80. He was also very physical in impact against a giant pack. OK he didn’t win a pilfer but he is not the number 7. I can’t ever remember Palu making a pilfer.

    • PeterK

      Higgs wasn’t great but certainly a lot better than Hanigan.

      Timani for Hanigan as my choice.

      • idiot savant

        Cheika was adamant Timani is an 8 so I doubt that will happen.

        I think Cheika would prefer to pick Timani at 8 and Hanigan at 6 with Hardwick on the bench. Which we may see against Italy. I think he might be nervous to go in against Scotland with 2 greenies in the loose so Higginbotham might get a stay of execution next week.

        It struck me ironically with all the criticism of Higgers over the years that he was easily the tightest of the back 3 forwards on Saturday. Both Hanigan and Hooper played wider and looser. Higgers out tackled them both.

      • Who?

        I’ve love to see that setup too…

  • PeterK

    I am not a fan of Grey as defensive coach.

    However fair due to him he has changed his patterns, helped by Hunt being at 12. There are no longer the same number of musical chairs when attack turns to defence. Thus holes weren’t being created and tackles missed because players wer running into position all over the place. Instead they held their positions by and large. Most tackles missed were by the Alaalatoa – 5 and 4 by hooper. They exploited where Alaalatoa was standing and his lack of lateral movement.

    • Brumby Runner

      But why then was the defensive pattern all over the shop when Hodge was playing 12? I seem to recall it was. and Hodge is as effective a defender as Hunt imo – certainly a lot better than either KB or Quade in the 12 spot. I would rather hope that there has been a recognition of the weaknesses the defense has shown over the past couple of years and things have been changed up by the coaching staff to address them.

  • Hoss

    Bit harsh BBL, maybe a bit saddle sore from the 55 km’s ?

    First hit-out for the year and as a team around the 6.5 – 7/10 mark.

    Watched it twice now and a bit to like

    * Higgers played tighter in gold than he ever has before and i thought was strong
    * Coleman & Arnold were busy and effective – good patnership growing there
    * Hannigan – a pass mark for first up, the unstructured Fijians always a tough ask for a loosie – let alone on debut, didnt make many mistakes and put in a tradesman type effort. Enough there to build on
    * Carter played well and again seemed more physical than his previous efforts

    The real standout was Mr K Hunt, looked like his 51st test, not first. Agressive in D, competent in attack and looks right at home. Nice problem to have with KB waiting in the wings, some real value in KH as a utility back moving into the RC.

    A few mistakes only natural for the first run back from a spell, but the group are better for the hit-out and the result

    Good to see Folau smiling again also.

    • idiot savant

      Wise words Hoss. Coleman is a freak – one of those rare forwards with high workrate and real physicality. There was a lot of tacking to be done by the forwards and Coleman, Higginbotham, and Hooper in that order did the lions share of it. The props started well but faded with the pace of the game. We really need to get a higher workmate out of our front row.

      And yes the KB vs KH battle for the 12 jersey will now be very interesting.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Hoss, you are probably right. Was watching the game live with a few Fijian mates, they were being hyper critical of fiji, and I might have struck a vein with them.
      Agree on Coleman and Arnold.
      Higgers was pretty good.
      Hanningan was ok.

      Yep Hunt was really good.
      Israel was Ok maybe I am ecpecting too much. I dont think that Folau’s first try was a try, I think it came forwards off Folau’s hand be it went on to be awarded a try.

  • Hoss

    And now something totally different.

    Anyonce catch the post match interviews with Sam Whitelock and the Crusaders coach (forgot his name, but the massive comb-over / forward is a personal favourite of mine – old school)

    Talk about sour grapes and surly !! Not one congratulations, too good, deserved their win – just ref, decisions, consistency ??

    Imagine the blow-back when Kearns and co say the same types of things…(fuck you Nigel Owens)

    Maybe the Kiwis finally realised the Lions mean business.

    The commentators whinged about the ref all night, the result and were entirely ungracious .

    At one point and i paraphrase – ‘the ref isnt given them a warning like there used to in Southern Hemisphere Rugby – you know ‘roll away 7, offside 8, release 6′

    Pardon my french, but about fucking time – your offside you get pinged, you dont roll away you get pinged

    Maybe, just maybe, the gleaming armour of the AB is starting to tarnish ever so slightly and a wee bit of pressure across the ditch for the first time in a long time.

    Yes – i am smiling whilst i blog this…….going to be a cracking Lions Series.

    • joy

      The Lions tackled them out of the game as England did to the Wallabies last year. This is the blueprint to success against Kiwi sides and I think its more to do with attitude and application than anything else. God some of the Lions look awkward but they are in your face and they make tackles stick. Aussie sides have failed miserably in this regard for at least the last two years. I’d pick the side on defensive ability above all else except open field kicking skills in the obvious positions.

    • Tommy Brady

      I thought this was a review of the Wallabies vs Fiji test match?

    • Mica

      Nothing new here. It’s just that they don’t lose very often, so they don’t get to practice being gracious in defeat very often.

  • Adrian

    Re the defence.

    I think that at times Cheika overrides his “specialist” coaches.
    I think he did that last year, when he let Larcombe organise the deepish backline we used v England, and the RC, but then reverted to flat from the 3rd NZ game, then the Wales game and other NH games. We continued in that vein v Fiji, and will keep it up until the WC I’m sure. Larcombe has adapted.

    I think Cheika has got Grey to introduce a simpler defence too. Some swapping, but less of it.

    I think it generally worked, despite the stats, as we held them out for long periods,….and they threw everything at us

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    The crowd was disappointing – only 13,000 turned up for the only test match in Melbourne this year. Some stayed away in protest that the Rebels is considered for the Superugby cull, or the lack of Rebels players in the Wallaby side or because the game was not interesting enough with the Wallabies only playing against a weaker side like Fiji or any other excuse.
    My challenge is why the ARU invest so much into Melbourne (something like $30 million this far) when the rugby supporters have something more important to do that attend the only test of the year in Melbourne. Melbourne has a population of almost 4 million, however an international test match could only attract 13,000!

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The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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