Cheika laments lack of enthusiasm after Argentina loss

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

An inexplicable lack of enthusiasm cost the Wallabies in key moments as they dropped their first match to Argentina in Australia 35 years, according to coach Michael Cheika.

Cheika hit the nail on the head when he identified the issues plaguing his side post-match as Argentina outworked his side all night.

"We lacked enthusiasm at the key moments often and that let us down," Cheika said.

"A lot of opportunities... big overlaps, chances to score gone missing because of lack of clarity and a lack of enthusiasm.

"One leads to the other generally.

"You're there early, you're there first, you're usually clear with what is going to happen, you don't make a mistake."

The mistakes were frequent but the blunder of the night came after the final siren.Israel Folau made a late game blunder. Photo: Getty ImagesIsrael Folau had an unmarked Bernard Foley screaming for the ball on his right just five metres out from the Argentinian line.

The equation was simple.

Folau passes, Foley scores.

But he brushed his teammate and a jolting hit knocked the ball free.

It was a play that summed up Australia's night but Cheika labelled the moment "irrelevant" given the standard of rugby his side produced in front of just over 16,000 fans.

"It doesn't come down to one instance," he said.

"The performance is still the same.

"If that last pass goes it doesn't change anything for the other 79 minutes and 59 seconds and what went on.

"That maybe keeps the illusion going because you win.

"But if you're fair dinkum you don't let that cover up the other issues.

"But I would still take winning, mind you."

The Wallabies looked like they would be winning this match after Folau scored a stunning individual try in the 19th minute.

Some superb hands put Will Genia over just nine minutes earlier but the Wallabies' fire quickly faded.

Argentina upped the ante and Cheika couldn't quite explain what went wrong.

"We wanted to go there (early)," Cheika said.

"We were looking for opportunities.

"Expectation maybe... just thought it was going to happen.

"That's where enthusiasm comes in.

"The other team were enthusiastic.

"They brought energy to the contest."

Underpinning the poor performance were three key factors - mauling, scrummaging and defence - that Cheika labelled "the spiritual homes of rugby”

"You can see it in the spiritual homes of rugby,” he said.

"Maul... Scrum... Even though the scrum was pretty even we should have done better there.

"That's where the game starts and the rest goes from there."

There were 21 missed tackles in the first half alone and that reflected the lack of urgency currently plaguing this team.

"In the second half we tackled quite well,” Cheika said

"But there were moments where we just closed our minds.

"We weren't in the moment and missed simple tackles which let guys through.

"The way the flanker breaks through off the lineout... that just can't happen at Test level."

The Wallabies now have a week off before boarding a flight to Port Elizabeth, where they will face an All Blacks-conquering Springboks outfit high on confidence.

On Monday, Australia’s world ranking will be at an all-time low and their confidence appears to be on the same downward slide.

With their backs against the wall they must deliver an against the odds win with the possibility of finishing last in The Rugby Championship well and truly alive.