All Blacks vs Wallabies: Five things we learned

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies have lost the Bledisloe Cup for another year.

What are we talking about after that 40-12 loss?

1. Desperation is not enough 

This time last week, captain Michael Hooper said the Wallabies had a plan to turn things around in Auckland.

He said it with such determination that those listening had to either think he was defiantly optimistic or that he harboured some special secret that outsiders had no knowledge of.

Well, there was certainly no secret weapon pulled out at Eden Park and while there might have been a plan, it didn't seem to stick.

Australia’s effort could not be faulted for much of the game in Auckland but tries either side of half-time and 42 missed tackles meant effort simply wasn’t enough.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was under immense pressure leading into the Test and, at least externally, that heat won’t cool anytime soon with another Bledisloe loss in the bag.

Players’ emotional defences of Cheika reflect a great respect for their coach and a desire to play for him.

Spectators see only win-loss records and another Bledisloe loss is another blow for this Wallabies group's tally.

Wallabies great George Gregan said on Saturday night on FOX SPORTS that any move to sack Cheika now would simply be an ‘emotional response’ rather than the correct decision and backed the current coaches had to be the ones to turn things around.

It seems they will have the chance to do that but Cheika needs to pull more than desire out of his team to complete the job.

2.  All Blacks slip through Wallabies fingers

The Wallabies couldn't find much space in Auckland. Photo: WalmsleyThe defensive statistics are not pretty reading for the Wallabies - and that goes well beyond the score.

Australia made 120 tackles in Auckland and missed 42 of those, whereas the All Blacks made 143 and missed just 25.

The stat that might be most telling, though, is the turnovers - the Wallabies had 21 turnovers to the All Blacks’ 20.

Despite the relative evenness of that statistic, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper estimated post-match that they had conceded 10 tries from turnovers out of 12 in total in the two Bledisloe Tests.

New Zealand pounces on half-chances and the Wallabies are too slow to adjust when they have the chance. 

3. Barrett unleashes relentless barrage 

Beauden Barrett scored four tries on Saturday night. Photo: WalmsleySo it appears the All Blacks made the right call when it came to their starting flyhalf in the Rugby Championship.

Just three weeks ago the Hurricanes 10 was under external pressure and his Crusaders counterpart Richie Mounga was hot on his heels, Steve Hansen stuck fat with his no. 10.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year became the first All Black to score four tries against the Wallabies and the second player to score four at Eden Park.

You can't argue with those stats. Barrett is a world-class player and will go down as an all-time great All Black.

4. Set piece overhaul pays off

The Wallabies changed the picture at set piece and it did pay off. An overhauled front row functioned far better in the scrum than its predecessors did a week ago.

Returning prop Scott Sio heaped the pressure on Owen Franks and captain Michael Hooper’s decision to continue to go for the scrum deep in attacking territory paid off in a Will Genia try.

Izack Rodda picked off the first All Blacks lineout and though Australia still gave up two of their own throws that was nothing compared to the seven they coughed up last weekend.

The lineout looked far more settled than in Sydney and that in itself eased many of the concerns that popped up last week.

5. Pocock provides some positivity

David Pocock stood up for Australia. Photo: WalmsleyWallabies fans were thanking their lucky stars that David Pocock was in Wallaby gold on Saturday night.

Pocock is a tough, tough competitor and he was tireless against the All Blacks at the back of the scrum.

The no. 8 finished with a monstrous 13 tackles and two turnovers, the most of anyone in the Wallabies outfit.

He managed that effort under more pressure than almost anyone on the ground as well.

The backrower was clearly targeted by the All Blacks and caught in a fairly blatant neck roll on half-time.

Pocock was protesting to referee Wayne Barnes of cynical play in the breakdown at a handful of other points in the match and was clearly playing through some pain.

That’s all in a day’s work for the 29-year-old, who ticked off another dominant performance.