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The Wallabies were given the greatest of leg-ups, but not even a red card could help as the All Blacks made a statement in Perth on Sunday.
The All Blacks’ 38-21 victory will be remembered for so many reasons, but none of them reflect well on Australian rugby which again were guilty of poor decision-making and skills.
No other Test nation has to face the All Blacks as much as the Wallabies, but Dave Rennie’s men are a mile off challenging the world’s best at the moment.
Rennie’s Wallabies at least have time before the World Cup in 2023 because that is what they need.
“We’ve had seven tests against the All Blacks,” Rennie said in his post-match press conference.
“Ultimately, I think that’s great for us.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper: “Firstly, pay credit to England. Played a good game. Come back from 1-0 down, and close out the series there. Take your hat off to a grind from them winning the series. I don’t think we were clinical. We created good opportunities tonight, just not good enough to finish them.
“In our half, we saw an opportunity to move the ball around. Some areas that hurt them, were big moments before halftime, getting the try, a scrappy ball where Marcus goes the length or half the field. Pleasing elements but, mate, it really hurts hey.
Forever proud of our group. We ground, and we played some good footy. We didn’t execute how we wanted but there’s so much grit in this group. There has been a lot of adversity. It was a shame we can’t do it here. Magnificent evening to play rugby in front of a full house. Enjoyed the crowd’s involvement in the game. Sorry, we couldn’t give them a win.”
Victory to New Zealand in a match that was far from a classic at Eden Park. The All Blacks chipped away in the opening half, earned some breathing room from Mo’unga’s intercept try, and established a 33-8 lead before putting their cue in the rack 15 minutes from time.
Australia was never outplayed but lacked execution at crucial times. Once again they failed to find combinations in the backline, they did not take advantage of almost double the number of penalties awarded in their favor, and Lolesio kicking 2/7 is always going to be a handicap.
The way Australia fought to the final whistle and added 17 unanswered points will give them plenty of confidence ahead of Bledisloe II – also at Eden Park – next weekend.
A massive shove from the Wallabies to earn a penalty against the feed on the halfway scrum. That sets up a lineout on the 22 that is safely executed. There’s no fluency off the back but that doesn’t bother Lolesio. He exploits the stagnant ball by chipping through to Banks’ advantage and the fullback flies through, gets his toe on the ball to tap ahead, then gets his fingertips to the touchdown. Australia coming home with a wet sail.
Not Lolesio’s night of the boot though. He misses yet another kick. This one, at least, was very trick, even at the best of times.
The loss – the sixth from 12 matches under Dave Rennie since taking the reins last year – was one of the Wallabies’ worst in recent years because it showcased the terrible skills and decision-making from the current group.
Rennie, however, does not think the scoreline reflects the overall picture.
“It’s easy to look at the scoreline, isn’t it?” he said.
“We gifted a lot of points, a couple of more intercepts today, we gave a couple away the last Test.
Australia secures the lineout, set up a rolling maul, Uelese peels off with the ball and bulldozes his way over for the final score of the match. Australia has done superbly in the final 20 minutes.
The scoreline looks very ugly for Australia, but across the 80 minutes tonight – and last week’s defeat – they showed they weren’t far off in most facets. They just couldn’t match the All Blacks for attacking threat, and specifically, attacking threat from multiple options. Time and again the Wallabies built promisingly, only to lack cohesion in midfield, with the wrong option picked time and again, typified by the intercept tries. New Zealand feasts on that broken field play.
Australia matched the All Blacks for most of the first half, and had the upper hand at the start of the second, but against 14-men they failed to capitalise and New Zealand found fourth, then fifth, then sixth gear, streaking off into the distance in scintillating fashion.
Two intercept tries (three in two matches in total) hurt the Wallabies. As did a host of missed tackles when the All Blacks upped the ante.
It might be time for Rennie to change tack, adopt a more conservative approach against New Zealand, deny them time and space, control the ball in tight, and grind through 80 minutes instead of trying to beat the All Blacks at their own game.
The AB forwards get to work, picking and driving through midfield to get within 5m. Smith marshals a drive left but Lienert-Brown is held up. Back to the pick and drives infield until the try line is lickable like a line of sherbert. Smith takes over once again, waits until the moment is optimal and fires another bullet out from the ruck to the left wing where McKenzie accepts and darts in at the corner. Excellent patient, controlled attacking.
Another good lineout, but no maul this time. McDermott is alive to the opportunity off the back and hits Paisami on the burst but the All-Black defence is up to the task. There is a siege on the New Zealand line with pick and go drives left and right of the breakdown but the All Blacks somehow manage to hold out. Eventually the Wallabies send it through hands, and there’s a huge overlap on the left. Lolesio does well to draw in the tackler and time his pass to To’omua perfectly. He sends