There was no ambiguity from Dave Rennie about why the Wallabies were well-beaten at Eden Park on Sunday.
In his opening two words of his post-match press conference, Rennie succinctly highlighted his side’s poor defence as why they lost and threatened to wield the axe following their 27-7 defeat to the All Blacks to get the desired response.
In years gone by there have been any number of reasons why the Wallabies have suffered defeats.
At the All Blacks’ “spiritual home”, Rennie hit the nail on the head when asked for a summation about what was different between the 16-16 draw in Bledisloe 1 and their 20-point defeat in Auckland on Sunday.
“Tackle percentage,” said Rennie, with a wry smile on his face.
“Last week we tackled really well and made minimal mistakes; we always knew that was important against the All Blacks. Today we turned the ball over a lot and missed too many tackles, and individual tackling was poor and got put under some heat from it.”
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Where the Wallabies’ linespeed in defence was quick and they hit and stuck with their first-up tackles in Bledisloe I, it was a stark contrast in Auckland.
It was an unrelenting physical assault from Ian Foster’s men, who dominated the collision through ferocious pressure at the breakdown and made the Wallabies pay off the counter.
Key to that was wing sensation Caleb Clarke, who produced what many saw coming but few could stop.
In total, the All Blacks produced 32 tackle busts to the Wallabies’ 14, which ultimately saw Rennie’s men miss 42 tackles.
Six of those came when Clarke made the Wallabies pay for a terrible kick-chase off the back of James O’Connor’s midfield up-and-under in the 44th minute, which saw Ardie Savea score moments later.
“We didn’t want to give them time and space so we wanted things to be competitive or contestable or find space in behind them as we did in Wellington,” Rennie said.
“Look, some of our options weren’t great. Caleb Clarke bringing the ball back was a handful. Some of our options weren’t great.”
And in an ominous warning to the 23 men that took the field, Rennie, who showed his ruthlessness by dropping four men from the side a week earlier, said that he might call upon others to fix their defensive issues ahead of Bledisloe III in Sydney on October 31.
“Selection can fix that, can’t it?” he said, after being asked whether the Wallabies could take some positives out of the loss knowing that if they fixed up their defensive issues the result would have been tighter.
“We felt at halftime we had fallen off a lot of tackles and gifted a bit of ball to the All Blacks, but we were (only) down 10-7 so we were right in it.
“We put them under pressure. I thought they scrambled really well. There were a couple of times I thought we had to score and didn’t. We’ve got to be better.
“I think there were a lot of errors from both sides today, but they were certainly sharper than us.”
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who made 22 tackles but missed four, explained that his side just simply couldn’t get their line set because they were on the backfoot more often than not.
“I think what they did well was they made us pay on our turnovers,” Hooper responded, after being asked whether the All Blacks were more physical in Bledisloe II.
“When you’re retreating, we’re missing tackles, our line’s going back and they’re coming forward onto you, it’s hard, it’s hard to make a big stop, hard to get guys into the breakdown to turn the ball over. Last week, if you compare that, we were able to get a nice defensive line, get up and make dominant defensive tackles, so that was a different there.”
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