Monday, November 03, 2008

Wallabies sidestep refereeing decisions

Fairfax Media, Sunday, 02 November 2008

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans displayed his usual guile to side-step questions about the refereeing in the final Bledisloe Cup match but there was a clear undercurrent of frustration in the Wallabies camp with the effort of Irish whistleman Allan Lewis.

The Wallabies battled a big penalty count at the breakdown and more frustrations at scrum time that hampered their progress in an enthralling match at Hong Kong Stadium which the All Blacks came back to win 19-14. The game is a lot more ruthless under the northern version of the ELVs with full penalties being awarded for most indiscretions rather than free kicks.

Hence the All Blacks, when handed the ball back by Lewis' decisions, managed to thump it down field and regather, forcing the Wallabies to start again. The game gets slowed down from the fast-paced play seen in the just completed southern hemisphere season. The All Blacks managed to manipulate that well as they went to the touchlines to regain control through what was a well-oiled lineout on the night.

Deans refused to be drawn into the penalty count debate: "It's done and dusted. I'll leave for you blokes to look at and we will obviously revisit the game on Monday and look at the things that we can control. This is not one of them. We will adapt. As long as we get consistency we will be fine."

With the benefit of four training camps and a week in Hong Kong, the Wallabies have clearly put a lot of work into their scrum. It was an area where they applied some real heat to the All Blacks at times which bodes well for their development.

"I thought we scrummed very well and put them under a lot of pressure. I don't think we were always rewarded for that but that's the way it is. Not too many seem to know what goes on in there," Deans said.

Asked if referees had preconceived ideas about the Australian scrum and consequently saw them as culprits for collapses and indiscretions, Deans said: "You are talking to the wrong bloke. You'll have to ask them. You can draw your own conclusions."

Australia, like New Zealand, now head north to continue their tour under this version of the ELVs. Discipline - pin-pointed by the All Blacks before, during and after the Hong Kong match – needs to be the Australians' focus. Senior Wallabies Stirling Mortlock and George Smith expressed disappointment at the way that waned at times as they finished the Bledisloe Cup series 1-3.

"We let it slip a few times and when we did the All Blacks jumped on them (opportunities), skipper Mortlock said."Our discipline let us down a number of times. We gave them possession and territory and penalties – it hurts."

Smith said the contentious breakdowns area was all about adjusting to situations and referees.
"We weren't disciplined enough in that area and we will adapt to these new rules in the weeks to come. That's definitely an issue. We are a far better team than that. We were hard done by on a couple of occasions but that's rugby and referees have different interpretations at different times."

Despite the loss, Deans hailed the ground-breaking Hong Kong venture a raging success.
"It was a great event," Deans said."It was an experiment as such. I believe both sides have enjoyed it. There's no doubt the public enjoyed it and it's certainly worth doing it again. But there'll be people further up the food chain who will make that decision."

For the second Test running, Australia, courtesy of two tries to winger Drew Mitchell, led into the second half only to allow New Zealand to run over the top of them in the final half hour.
"We looked at our needs post-Tri Nations and I believe we've made progress," Deans maintained."We were possibly more deserving this time, but still not good enough. We've just got to keep going and get to the point where we're so deserving that we get home."

Mortlock also believes the Wallabies have "made up significant ground" on their trans-Tasman rivals this season, despite losing the annual series 3-1.
"It's hard because we've come off two losses, two very close losses," he said."But we have a really positive focus about this tour and it's a great opportunity to get a huge amount of development out of this squad. When I look at this group, I see a lot of potential and the aim is hopefully to start feeling that potentially."

Mortlock is confident the Wallabies' month of conditioning camps in Australia pre-tour will bear fruits in Europe after he felt signs of the physical groundwork kicking in during a "draining" Bledisloe Cup encounter played out in high humidity in Hong Kong.

"The feeling that I had was that the work we've done over the past five weeks has really showed, or I could feel it," he said."Maybe it wasn't clearly evident in our performance, but the communication of the guys working through fatigue and our ability to switch on in transitions when we turned the ball over when they got penalties ... guys weren't letting off the hammer. The little things were there. You can feel this group is growing. You can feel the positivity and guys just wanting to give more. And that's evident. It hasn't translated into results yet, so that's disappointing. But I think when you give it your all, when you go out on the sporting field and you're exposed and you do everything in your power to get a result, you can hold your head high. And I think we're close to that."
-with AAP

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