Wallabies v All Blacks: Five things we learned

The Rugby Championship
by Iain Payten

The Wallabies lost another Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney. What did we learn from the defeat?

1. Win set piece or get no peace

You will win very few games of Test rugby without winning set-pieces. And none against the All Blacks.

The Wallabies competed in many places at ANZ Stadium but the line out and the scrum weren’t among them.

The scrum, which had competed so well against Ireland in June, became patchy and coughed up penalties under pressure.

And the line out was a disaster zone. 

The Wallabies lost an unforgivable eight line outs on their own throw. In a total of 17. 

To beat the All Blacks you can’t afford one. 

There will have to be major improvements for the Wallabies to even be a slim hope of competing in Auckland next week.

2. Foreign parachute system needs a re-think

It was a fair question uttered in every lounge room: how can the line out be so poor when they practice this stuff all year?

The answer is when your starting hooker has not been in Australia all year.

Tatafu Polota-Nau has only been training with the Wallabies for 14 days, since returning from a season with Leicester, where he is now based.

TPN is a legend of the game and given his heart and soul to Australian rugby. His commitment and character should never come under scrutiny.

But the question of whether players in key positions should be parachuted back into the Wallabies under the Giteau Law needs very some serious thought. 

Lineouts are as much about timing, precision and well-oiled combinations - all created with hour upon hour of practice. 

TPN clearly didn’t get that during the limited time he was able to train with the Wallabies, under Test window agreements.

And Tolu Latu, while also being a dynamic player around the park, is also known for being a poor lineout thrower.

He couldn't get a start for NSW because of it and to be fair to TPN, the majority of stolen lineouts came on when Latu was on.

Without a shadow of a dount, the All Blacks strategists would have targeted the Wallabies’ line out as a weak point to exploit. And they did.

3. Rettalick rage rules rugby

The All Blacks squad and staff circled around Sam Whitelock on the field after the final siren, and gave the big lock a special cap to commemorate his 100th Test match.

It was well deserved but if Whitelock got a hat, they should have chucked a solid gold crown on his second row partner Brodie Retallick.

The giant All Blacks lock was outstanding in the opening Bledisloe: winning line outs, defending with grunt and even scoring a try with a show-and-go dummy that Beauden Barrett would have been proud of. He had 79 run metres and even a try assist.

What made it all the more remarkable was this was the first Test match for Retallick since last September.

The former World Rugby Player of the Year missed the rest of the year due to a family bereavement and then injury kept him out of the June series against Ireland.

It's scary to think he'll be better for the run.

4. Sydney sucks, so switch it up

The last three results in opening Bledisloe Cup games at ANZ Stadium have seen three soul-destroying thrashings. It was 42-8 in 2016, 54-34 in 2017 and 38-13 in 2018.

A combined total of 134-54 - in 240 minutes of footy.

Thankfully, next year the Wallabies won’t be playing at ANZ Stadium. Indeed, they won’t be there at all until 2022 at the earliest.

The venue is being re-furbished at the end of the year but by all means, feel free to knock her down tomorrow.

Despite a healthy 66318 people turning up to give the Wallabies another chance, the unhappy hunting ground kept up her reputation.

A good couple of thousand certainly weren’t there by the final hooter, having filed out in the last ten minutes.

Rugby Australia have had a deal with the NSW Government since 2011 to play the first Bledisloe Cup at ANZ Stadium but they should think long and hard about continuing that deal when the joint re-opens. Take the game to the smaller Allianz Stadium, when it is re-built, even if it costs you money. And lobby for a mid-competition start against the All Blacks, when the team often plays far better.

Even with the successful trial game this year, pinning hopes of winning back a Bledisloe on the first game - after a long lead-up where we indulge in naive optimitism - is folly. Clearly.

Please refer to the internet quote from Einstein about doing the same thing over and over again.

5. Salty over Peyper's spear ruling

There was once a time when Waisake Naholo’s first half tip tackle on Israel Folau was a yellow card offence.

As in, about a month ago.

But after the world screamed the house down when referees and cards were overly influential in June, the referee response has clearly been to take a few chill pills pre-game. 

SANZAAR said the TMO system wasn’t working, and World Rugby boss Brett Gosper said a review was in train.

In the meantime, referees have been told to take control and rule on the run. TMOs will now rarely be heard from and only genuine foul play will be sent for review by the man in the middle.

Which is fine. We said we don’t want refs ruining games. But we also don’t want things like, um, spear tackles?

When Michael Hooper pointed out the Naholo tackle took Folau past the horizontal, Peyper brushed it away and said Folau had contributed to landing on his shoulder.

How else was he suppose to land you ask? Fair question. 

Taking referee intervention out of the game is welcome. But don’t throw genuine foul play out with the bath water.