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Al Baxter: 5 Things We Learnt - Qantas Wallabies v British & Irish Lions

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By Al Baxter

1. Goal kicking wins Test matches:
5 missed kicks, 14 points left on the paddock, a 2 point loss. The numbers speak for themselves – the Qantas Wallabies would have won the Test easily if they had kicked even just 50% of the kicks they missed. As shown by the last 3 winners of the Rugby World Cup, a champion team includes a great kicker and at the moment the Qantas Wallabies need one whilst the Lions have found one in Leigh Halfpenny.
2. Israel Folau is a natural:
Folau had an extraordinary game and was rightly awarded the man of the match. With a considerable injury toll in the backline becoming a real possibility for the Qantas Wallabies, Robbie Deans should take a serious look at playing Folau in the centres – this would allow Folau to become far more involved in the game and he could be used much like how Sonny Bill Williams was successfully used by the All Blacks
3. Is O’Connor the right person for the Wallaby no. 10 jersey?
It was tough on O’Connor to lose the 2nd playmaker (Leali’ifano) in the first 30secs of the game and then the 3rd playmaker not long afterwards (Barnes), even having to resort to using Hooper in the backline for the final 20mins of the game but O’Connor never looked fully comfortable in the 10 jersey. He is however a player of amazing talent and when in, form a game winner. Perhaps Barnes, Beale or Toomua might be better suited to the 10 with O’Connor at 12?
4. The Qantas Wallabies won the battle of the breakdown
The Qantas Wallabies work at the breakdown as well as their defensive systems was excellent and allowed the team to nullify the Lions’ excellent attacking backline even when they had the vast majority of possession in the first half. This area of strength will need to continue to be a strong focus of the Qantas Wallabies if they are to win the series.
5. The Wallaby scrum started slowly but finished brilliantly
With not a huge amount of experience or knowledge of the Qantas Wallabies’ recent scrum performance both at international and provincial level, the Lions would have been thinking they would be able to dominate this area of the game but a part from a strong Lions’ scrum early in the game, the winner of the scrum battle was too close to call - the Wallabies even took a cheeky tighthead from the Lions’ late in the match! The Lions would be disappointed with this and I’m sure will be looking for a far stronger performance in this area for the Melbourne Test.