Nestor praises captain marvel and debutants in Wallaroos' win over Japan

International
by Emma Greenwood

An old hand and new faces have showed the future is bright for the Wallaroos as they opened their international season with a 34-5 win over Japan in Newcastle.

Australian coach Dwayne Nestor said the nine debutants justified their selections with performances that underlined his opinion they were named not for experience but because they had earnt their places in the Wallaroos' match-day squad.

Three debutants -   Averyl Mitchell, Ariana Hira-Herangi and Eva Karpani - scored as the Wallaroos grew in confidence throughout the match.

"There were 23 footballers in our squad today. Obviously as a debutant wearing the jersey for the first time it's very special for them but we wanted to make them realise that they deserved to be there," Nestor said.

"They didn't get any special consideration, they're just 23 very good footballers we have absolute faith in."

Centre Ariana Hira-Herangi scores to give the Wallaroos a 12-0 halftime lead. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

After a slow start, the Wallaroos' combinations fired in the back end of the first half, and they were close to unstoppable in the second, adding four more tries to their tally.

In front of a crowd of 3912 at Newcastle's No.2 Sportsground, the Wallaroos had to battle the conditions as well as their rivals, with howling westerlies voiding their kicking game, leaving the teams to play with the ball in hand.

Having played just one trial match - against Japan earlier this week - together since last year, the Wallaroos struggled early.

Step up Grace Hamilton.

Hamilton may have been playing her first game as captain but she showed all the poise and determination that had made her one of the world's best backrowers in 11 previous Test appearances, leading by example as the Wallaroos shifted their attention to the set piece and grafting work.

Along with her fellow backrowers Millie Boyle and Emily Chancellor, Hamilton set the tone with 36 carries for 120m and 22 tackles in an effort that earnt player of the match honours.

Millie Boyle takes the ball up in a workaholic effort for the Wallaroos. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"How good," Nestor said of his backrowers.

"How good were Grace, Mille, we had Emily Chancellor there as well and then Shannon Mato came on as well and they make an impact.

"Our go-forward through those girls was outstanding."

Boyle showed again what a class player she is, dominating just weeks after turning out for NSW in their successful State of Origin league campaign following a stellar Super W season with the Queensland women's XV.

The sister of NRL forward Morgan Boyle and daughter of Canberra legend David, Boyle will eventually have to choose between the two rugby codes.

And Nestor is out to make the Wallaroos an irresistible choice.

Debutant Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea takes on the Japanese defence. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"We're just going to provide her with the best possible environment that she can enjoy here," he said.

"Of course at some stage she's going to have to make a decision."

A try just before halftime to Hira-Herangi gave the Wallaroos a 12-0 halftime lead after Mitchell crossed for the Wallaroos' first score of the afternoon after nine minutes.

It took another half and hour for the Wallaroos to cross again, with the Australians taking time to find cohesion from new combinations.

With four debutants in the starting XV and several other players with little international experience, the Wallaroos struggled to find fluency in attack early in the match, turning the ball over on several occasions.

But they improved in the back end of the half, threatening on several occasions before Hira-Herangi crossed following a quick tap from halfback Cobie-Jane Morgan after a penalty.

They made a stronger start to the second half, with flyhalf Trileen Pomare scoring just two minutes after the break, with Sam Treherne's conversion giving them a 19-0 lead.

With the howling wind dropping a notch, conditions were more favourable in the second term but it was the Wallaroos' ability to maintain possession that opened the game up.

Winger Mhicca Carter soon added her name to the scorecard and it seemed the try-rush would continue when Pomare looked to have planted the ball for a second time.

She was ruled to have been held up in goal, but the Wallaroos scored from the resulting try, replacement Eva Karpani crossing to add to the success of the debutants.

Backrower Emily Chancellor was a standout for the Wallaroos. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyWhile they gave up a try in the 70th minute, Sam Treherne put the icing on the cake, crossing late to push the score to 34-5.

"That first half was hard, we had to absorb a lot of pressure but I think it was laying the platform and when we went to set piece … if we can go at that and be confident, the rest comes," Hamilton said.

"We absorbed that pressure but we also dominated our attack. We just had a few loose carries but in that second half we came out firing and I think that showed in the second half."

The early errors came more from pushing passes than any lack of commitment and Nestor and Hamilton said they could not fault their troops.

"I don't think you can try too hard when you're representing Australia," Hamilton said.

"It means so much to every single girl and I know it means so much to me and all of our families.

"so trying too hard is not a lack of effort and that's what we talked about was effort.

"If you can execute what you want by trying too hard, that's fine by me."

And like Nestor, she praised the new recruits.

"It was an emotional day but I'm so proud and so excited for every single girl that stood on that field today," Hamilton said.

"(The tries from the debutants were) so great and that's why they got their spot.

"They deserved that and then the girls came off the bench and they executed with that fire and that support that we wanted and I'm so, so proud of them."

SCORES

WALLAROOS 34

Tries: Mitchell, Hira-Herangi, Pomare, Carter, Karpani, Treherne

Cons: Treherne 2

JAPAN 5

Try: Fujimoto