Cheika "very flat" but finding positives ahead of Spring Tour

by Sam Phillips

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been "flat" after losses a few times this year.

He cut a desolate figure after his side lost to Argentina on the Gold Coast and was particularly deflated after the Auckland Bledisloe carve up.

His body language and comments in Yokohama were different.

He was "very flat" but more because his team created the necessary opportunities to win and could not capitalise.

"I think that's why we are very flat," Cheika said.

"There is a lot of stuff to work with there I suppose.

"Just too many turnovers in key moments and too many turnovers in general.

"I think it's a bit of a reason why we are feeling like that.

"But there are some things we can work with for sure going forward."

Cheika hit the nail on the head.

His team made seven line breaks and looked as threatening as they have all year but only kept their nerve twice, when Sefa Naivalu and Israel Folau scored.

The other breaks were followed by pushed passes, poor hands or both.

That created 17 total turnovers and the All Blacks made the Australians pay.

"Through the middle we were quite good there," captain Michael Hooper said.

"Our forwards were working really hard and our eight forwards through the middle were getting some nice movement.

"There were three turnovers out wide when we finally made the decision to go out wide.

"You look at the game at 17-7 turnovers and that's a heap of ball you are giving to New Zealand.

"We all see what they can do with that."

While the turnover count is alarming it was actually Australia's set piece defence which cost them dearly.

Kieran Read strolled over from five out after a sustained set of defence and a missed Will Genia tackle allowed Rieko Ioane to put Beauden Barrett away hurt and they are relatively easy fixes moving forward.

"(Conceding) 37 points stings us a bit," Hooper said.

"I spoke yesterday about defending better for longer and attacking better for longer.

"We probably didn't do that there around the 65, 70 minute mark."

Set piece defence, sloppy turnovers and some soft late tries aside it's hard not to be somewhat positive about this Wallabies performance.

Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale looked as threatening as they have all year in the middle of the field and that's because the Australian forwards kept crashing over the gain line.

Then there is the return of Samu Kerevi and Jack Dempsey to consider.

Kerevi was one of the Wallabies' best despite playing just 23 minutes and Dempsey had a couple of carries which showed he is back at his very best.

They need to feature more prominently against Wales if the Wallabies are to return to the winners' circle.

"We can play it in two fashions," Cheika said.

"We can look at getting them back into starting or we can increase their time finishing.

"They both played good portions of the second half and I would say they will be in line for selection in both.

"We will see how they go over the next week before we decide."

All eyes now turn to the Spring Tour.

Beating Wales and Italy would provide a pass mark but a result against England would show the Australian public the team is progressing in the right direction, rather than regressing.

"We have some standards and goals that we want to achieve as a group that we are working on," Hooper said.

"Tonight sets a really good level for us and where we want to improve.

"We have something that we think can produce results for us."