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Al Baxter: 5 Things We Learnt ...

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By Al Baxter

1.    The Argentina Pumas fully deserve to be in this competition.

For a team that has never been involved in an annual tier one Rugby tournament and that has to travel half way around the world for every away game they have been extraordinarily impressive. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the world respectively and Argentina (currently ranked 8th in the world) is playing like a team that fully deserves a spot in the world’s top three.

2.    Defense and Kicking are Argentina’s biggest assets (closely followed by their set piece).

Pressure, position and possession are the keys to winning Test matches and the Pumas strong work in mastering the basics of set piece, defense and kicking for field position are some of the main reasons they look like a team that is pushing for a top 3 ranking. When their attack continues to step up over the next couple of years they will be a genuine threat in winning The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship. 

3.    The Qantas Wallabies are still letting themselves down with lost opportunities.

In the first half the Qantas Wallabies worked really hard in both attack and defense to put themselves in a position to get points at least seven times, but were only able to secure points once (a penalty goal). Twice players got over the try line but didn’t score, two penalty chances were missed and two lineouts were lost in great attacking positions. If the Wallabies convert even 50% of these opportunities then it turns into an entirely different game going into the second half.

4.    Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley Cooper are going from strength to strength.

Berrick looked right at home at fullback (even though he has only ever played that position at club level) and Adam Ashley-Cooper once again looked great at outside centre. However, Quade Cooper and Nick Phipps looked like they had only met each other for the first time at the Test match. I’m sure this was also a contributing factor in what was overall a pretty scratchy performance by Quade. The upside to this is that they will quickly improve, as the two have the next fortnight to train together before the next Test in Pretoria.

5.    The Wallaby scrum started brilliantly but lost focus late in the game.

The Wallaby pack looked great for most of the game putting pressure on the Pumas ball as well as being rock solid on their own ball. However, as the replacements came on and other Wallaby forwards became fatigued their focus drifted at scrum time while at same time the Puma pack and reserves kept their focus. A telling indication of this was in the 76th minute when after a good Wallaby engagement on a Puma scrum the entire Wallaby back row became almost fully detached with their heads up looking for the next play. The Wallaby pack was then marched back as just five of our forwards were attempting to scrummage against all eight Puma forwards. For the next game against the Pumas in Argentina, the Wallaby front row will have to keep the pack focused in the dying stages of the game so this doesn’t happen again.