What are we talking about after the second Bledisloe Test?
1. Fourteen in a row
It wasn’t quite groundhog day in Wellington but despite the Wallabies’ improvements, the outcome was the same. The Bledisloe Cup trophy is staying in New Zealand for another season and the Wallabies will have to spend another 12 months plotting a new way to snatch it back for the first time since 2002. Australia’s defensive effort was more hearty than what they put up in Sydney but their attack lacked much spark or opportunity. Their lineout was once again destroyed by New Zealand, with Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore losing three throws and replacement Tatafu Polota-Nau missing another. Those things need to be fixed, fast.
2. European carnage
Whatever debate there is to be had about the European Wallabies returning, it’s almost a moot point after the second Test, with only Will Genia actually making it through these matches unscathed. Drew Mitchell was working his way back from injury when he arrived, Matt Giteau has already gone back to France after a serious ankle injury in the first Test and Ashley-Cooper made it a trio of injury concerns. Whatever your opinion is of the ‘Giteau Law’, this series has as of yet been unable to actually deliver a serious assessment of their value.
3. Tackle bags
The Wallabies said their defensive problems would be an easy fix with a week between matches, but as it turns out, it was wasn’t quite so simple. By half-time, they’d made some headway, with the right intent but still the execution was poor. In the opening 40, the Wallabies missed 18 tackles and stuck 27 to the All Blacks’ 42 and 3. Desperate efforts from the likes of Genia stopped the margin from blowing out too much.
4. Hodge sticks the boot in
Reece Hodge has a reputation for his long-range kicking and proved on Saturday night that pressure has little effect on that. The 22-year-old booted a 55m penalty goal in the opening half that looked like it could easily have been slotted a further 10 metres out. He had another shot from that 65-metre length in the second but missed slightly to the right. On Test debut, he looked calm and cool and showed plenty of promise.
5. The Kiwis still hate Quade
There wasn’t quite as much schadenfreude in the Wellington crowd as there was in New Zealand four years ago when Quade Cooper was handed the ball, but a blind man could have told you exactly when the recalled playmaker was in possession, so defined were the boos against him. Cooper, though, showed his maturity to move past that. He was solid and his kicking added some more variety to the Wallabies’ game. It was just unfortunate the Wallabies didn’t have much of a chance unleash their attacking weapons.