Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bumbling Wallabies give All Blacks victory


Greg Growden August 19, 2012

Wallabies 19 All Blacks 27

The Wallabies are the ultimate huff-and-puff merchants. They can talk it up and sound as if they can blow the All Blacks' house down, but when it really matters, they cough, splutter and fall short.

It was more of the same last night at ANZ Stadium, where the Wallabies were saved by the inability of the All Blacks to finish off several dangerous attacking moves - otherwise the final scoreline would have been an embarrassment for the home side.

The Wallabies had their nice touches but there too many nasty moments and they led to their downfall. And, as expected, the Wallabies' lack of midfield thrust proved a major hurdle. Yet again they found try-scoring a near impossible chore. It's now a measly six tries from five Tests this season.

Also, several crucial Australian players were blinded by the spotlight. On Friday, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans called on Kurtley Beale to be one of the on-field leaders to take some of the pressure off skipper David Pocock. Some leader! Beale was so loose and so lost early on that he was very lucky not to be hooked. Then again, the Wallabies' reserves bench - inferior to the All Blacks' back-up - had no solutions either.

It got so embarrassing that the crowd let out the most sarcastic of cheers when at last Beale did something right. And that was in the 35th minute. Before that, Beale was the lead actor in a hideous Australian farce, with many of his teammates willing contributors.

How the Wallabies were only eight points behind at half-time would have confounded the most brainwashed of green-and-gold followers because the bumbling home team were doing everything they could to enable the All Blacks to enjoy a record belting.

Everywhere in the first half the Wallabies were off, but the most disconcerting aspect was their inability to think under pressure. They tried to be fancy by bringing Beale into five-eighth, and moving Berrick Barnes to fullback for some attacking initiatives - and that did absolutely nothing. The first time Beale was the playmaker and the Wallabies went for boring shuffle-ball - with endless flat-footed passes towards the opposite winger. It went nowhere. The second time they were again on the road to nowhere?
Oh no, were we suddenly watching the Waratahs?

Then the All Blacks got the ball, with All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg making Beale look absolutely silly by ambling his way around him to score.

Sanity appeared to return with Barnes returning to No.10. And what does he do? Throws it several metres behind Beale, who had to scramble behind his goal-posts and throw a desperate pass to Adam Ashley-Cooper, who almost got caught in the in-goal.

The Wallabies got a penalty straight in front of his posts, and oh no, the playmaker decided to take a quick tap. Terrific. Shortly after the Wallabies lost the ball - and there goes three points. Then to top it all off, Beale was involved in a glaring knock-on clanger.

Numerous other Wallabies also had the woopsie disease. Scott Higginbotham dropped the ball with the line open. Anthony Faingaa missed tackles he should have gobbled up and too many forwards were caught at the breakdown playing the ball on the ground. And the scrum was a lottery. One team then the other was penalised for collapsing this always unstable deck of cards.

The Wallabies were a bit more with it after the break as each team traded penalty shots at goal, but the chief concern was now that the All Blacks were far better organised at the breakdown.

While the Wallabies often relied on one-off forward play - which saw Pocock regularly isolated and occasionally penalised - the All Blacks instead always hit the tackle area like an artillery, bodies going everywhere, and cleaning anything inferior out of the way. That led to more Wallabies blunders, and possession being handed to the All Blacks at crucial times. And with the Wallabies' loss of a crucial scrum in the 67th minute came enough of a points leeway for the All Blacks to enjoy yet another Sydney triumph.

NEW ZEALAND 27 (Israel Dagg, Cory Jane tries Daniel Carter con 5 pens) bt AUSTRALIA 19 (Nathan Sharpe try Berrick Barnes con 4 pens) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Alain Rolland. Crowd: 76,877.

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