This is the game Rugby Australia boss is selling and why Rennie will be licking his lips: 5 things we learnt

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

Only a month ago it was dooms day. Australian rugby was written off. 

The dismal efforts being dished up on the field was, supposedly, reflected in the handful of people coming through the gates to watch and turning on the television to tune in.

Even in Saturday's papers, columnists were putting the boot in.

"McLennan's V'landys pants can't disguise fact he's selling a fantasy" was the headline of one take in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Up over the border in Queensland new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie would be licking his lips.

He's made a career out of turning under-performers into headline acts. He did it with the Chiefs, turning Ian Foster's mob into champions in his first two years in charge of the New Zealand outfit.

Over the weekend, he would be thinking the same thing about the Wallabies.

On Friday night he was in the stands on the Gold Coast watching the Waratahs continue to develop under his compatriot Rob Penney.

The Waratahs attack might be generating the headlines and changing the perceptions of the public, but the victory was built on their defence.

One night later, he witnessed one of the greatest defensive efforts from an Australian Super Rugby side in history as the Queensland Reds held the Melbourne Rebels scoreless.

The Reds made 143 second half tackles to the Rebels' nine. Talk about resilience.

When Rennie arrived he continued to bang the drum his predecessor Michael Cheika had been banging, Australia's players must get fitter.

Well you don't make those tackles unless you're fit.

Taniela Tupou is the greatest example of that. The 'Tongan Thor' was replaced in the 80th minute. By that time he'd made 13 tackles without a miss. Long gone are the days that Tupou was a one-trick pony.

It took until the 73rd minute for a point to be scored in the second half.

But there wouldn't have been a person complaining about the spectacle that they were witnessing unfold.

It rivaled the Springboks' extraordinary defensive effort against the All Blacks in Wellington in 2018 and the Wallabies' second half against Wales in the 2015 World Cup.

That's the game's potential that McLennan is selling.

2. THE ONE MINUTE OF PLAY THAT SUMS UP MCDERMOTT

Marika Koroibete has made a career out of running over the top of defenders.

So when he saw Tate McDermott in front of him three metres out, having burst onto a ball popped up by his own halfback Frank Lomani, his eyes lit up with 42:57 on the clock.

A split second later, Fox Sports commentator belted out "Koroibete is short".

Less than a minute later, fly-half Andrew Deegan fired a ball across the field to fellow winger Andrew Kellaway who too eyed McDermott up.

Kellaway straightened, McDermott didn't budge making yet another ball and all shot.

Later in the match, the little No.9 held Isi Naisarani up over the line too.

Three moments of brilliance that proved match defining.

Earlier in the game, McDermott's offload as he was smashed in a tackle by Koroibete sent Jordan Petaia in to score.

In the 73rd minute, it was his decision just to take a step and hold replacement halfback James Tuttle from sliding in defence a split second that helped open the hole for James O'Connor to send Hamish Stewart through.

Since debut a couple of seasons ago all the talk has been about McDermott's running game.

On Saturday, he showed he's capable on both sides of the ball.

3. THOR TIME 

One of the reasons Michael Hooper could continue as Wallabies captain is because the side's next most likely to lead them, Allan Alaalatoa, is no certainty of a starting spot.

Alaalatoa is one of Australia's most consistent performers and his work-rate is second to none.

But given the development of Tupou, Alaalatoa is no certain starter.

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Hitherto, Tupou has been thought of as a bench specialist, designed to crash over the top of tired defenders and generate quick ball.

Yet such his fitness, his big engine and bigger frame that it's becoming harder and harder to see how he can be left out of the starting side.

It's a healthy headache for Rennie to have. Then you throw in Pone Fa'amausili into the mix.

4. REBELS SHORT OF ANSWERS 

The Rebels' development has been obvious since the start of the season.

They know the brand of rugby they want to play, which is to play little rugby in their own half, monster opposition packs in the attacking half and take the points on offer.

But against the Reds, the Rebels came up short.

They thought they had the Reds on offer and opted to keep going.

Rugby pundit Rod Kafer questioned the decision to call for a scrum instead of continuing to attack the Reds' dodgy defensive maul work. He proved to be right.

The Rebels weren't helped by the departure of Matt To'omua as the second playmaker suffered a head knock.

Without him, the Rebels' lack of ball players and the absence of Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback was shone.

5. MENTALITY 

They say a week's a long time in politics. Well, the same can be said about rugby.

Last weekend the Reds leaked six tries inside the first half.

A week later zero.

Reds captain Liam Wright put it down to "flicking the switch".

That switch is the mental side of the game.

The Reds' heads were anywhere but the SCG last weekend, but with Jordan Petaia back in the side they rallied and put on a performance that his late father would have been proud of.