Red card not the killer for Wallabies

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sekope Kepu’s red card hurt the Wallabies in Edinburgh but coach Michael Cheika says they should have been able to grind out a win regardless of the circumstances.

Kepu was sent off for a shoulder charge just before half-time, leaving the Wallabies with 14 men for the second half, a mismatch that was punished by one of the slickest Scotland teams in recent memory.

Australia showed some grit to level the scores in the 43rd minute, through Kurtley Beale, but Scotland piled on the pain from there.

Cheika admitted the card affected his side, but said he didn’t want that to be the takeaway from a 53-24 defeat.

“I thought we still could have won with 14, to be honest,” he said.

“We came back and started off the second half very well.

“We just had to keep believing in what we wanted to do and instead we didn’t.

“We threw away the ball.

“We had less players and if you throw away the ball that is sort of what is going to happen. It’s definitely unfortunate but definitely not the red card – that happens in matches.

“I don’t think it was a turning point.”

The Wallabies’ handling errors were particularly costly, with options to try and keep the ball alive backfiring, giving Scotland opportunities to score easily.

“We threw one ball on the ground when we were making a break. We could have gone in front and we didn’t have that discipline to understand that this is going to be something that we have execute going through phases and then put the opposition under pressure because at that point they’re expected to win when we’ve got 14.

“We actually tried to go and win the game as opposed to just stay in it and see what happens and battle through it.”

The 14th of 14 Tests of the year may well have been the worst in which to face adversity and captain Michael Hooper admitted that players’ heads may have been clouded as the game went on.

“It’s frustrating. Guys starting to think about a couple of other things in the game rather than focusing on the here and the now,” he said.

“Just knocking off knowing that we probably needed to hold the ball with 14 men on the field, we didn’t do that.

“It was a little bit frustrating and disappointing.”

The pain of not giving retiring hooker Stephen Moore a positive farewell was clear in the players’ reactions after the game but Cheika said it shouldn’t sully the former skipper’s legacy.

“I don't think a player's career is summarised by one match, any match or a moment in the game,” he said.

“His attitude and character will be imprinted on this squad going forward.

“He is a genuine authentic Wallaby he loves Australia, it hurts him when the team is not seen in the right light and he will do anything for the team be at the top.

“Considering our situations over the last few years he has been an outstanding help to me.

“We've had a lot of battles on and off the field and he's kept the team up and hungry all the time.”

The Wallabies have finished their Spring Tour and will leave Edinburgh on Sunday, with players returning to Super Rugby clubs next month ahead of the 2018 season.