Second Victory for Australia Can Only Help So Much

Will Genia
Will Genia scores during the Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and Argentina at nib Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Perth, Australia.

They say ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and in beating Argentina last night, it will only go so far in the fortunes of the Australian rugby team. This in fact was only the second victory for Australia this season, so it was a muted success that only helps so much.

The Pumas had played well a week earlier in taking the All Blacks to the limit. They did what few other teams could do–certainly what Australia failed to do–and would have been confident that they had the organized attitude and tactics. That wasn’t to be, and the home side finished well in the end.

Due to this result, The Rugby Championship was claimed by New Zealand in emphatic style in Christchurch. Their game against South Africa proceeded the Wallabies v Pumas match in Perth, Western Australia. By kick-off, the side’s running out must have known that fact.

With their 2015 championship ripped off them, the Stephen Moore led side would go on to win 36-20–but it was still just the second victory for Australia in a disastrous season [sorry to be so blunt]. It was earned though, but was not widely celebrated.

Second Victory for Australia Only Helps So Much

For rugby fans in Perth, it was a chance to see the national side and to hopefully see some winning rugby. The Western Force have not entirely ‘set the Super Rugby world on fire’ so nib Stadium was a big occasion. And they enjoyed it too, when homeboy Dane Haylet-Petty scored the Wallabes second try within ten minutes. Samu Kerevi scored the first try.

There were many highlights of course. Will Genia was again his imperious best, scoring twice in a ‘Man of the Match’ effort. One of the successes of the overseas-based selections, Cheika will be very pleased.

All this was also built on an incredibly low volume of territoy. Like they did to the All Blacks, the Pumas used all their space and for good periods had the wood over the home side. Unlike last week, they could not complete those attacking plays. Scoring tries last week early, the opposite occurred and the early lead was tough to overcome.

And in positions, the Wallabies were out manned. The plucky Argentinian wingers were again sharp and the scrum powerful. The back of the Aussie scrum had issues to begin with, and the worst piece of news came in the 35th minute.

Pocock removed by massive injury blow

David Pocock, the talented and enigmatic number eight, left the field with a suspected broken hand. It was a big blow, and it did change the course of the game. Leading by 21 points, Australia could have used that advantage better until they needed to re-arrange the back row.

The injury on made an earlier yellow card for Scott Sio feel twice as bad, but Sean McMahon sealed the wound. The much talked about Melbourne Rebels loose got his chance and he took it.

Second half wobbles

Pumas winger Santiago Cordero scored in the 44th minute to give visiting fans something to sing about. Wearing a boring blue strip, the tourist delivered on passion, working off a collective spirit.

As has happened before, there needed a moment of ‘spark’ to correct the mindset and it came from Australia’s favourite ex-Kiwi. Quade Cooper, who got much praise in Brisbane after the Springbok win, showed some invention. The use of the inside ball proved a miracle, and Michael Hooper showed a flashback of several years past.

He broke the line, and it seemed to break the Argentine spirits. But as is the ‘Quade Cooper show’ he did his most to undermine the teams chances. A shoulder charge was identified and he sat out ten minutes.

Time runs out for Argentina

Facundo Isa scored and fans at nib Stadium, and across Australia had to hold their breath for the last few minutes. Unwanted pressure too. Something Cooper can be almost embarrassed about; like a re-start going out on the full, it is a coach killer.

Assistants Nathan Gray and Stephen Larkham know all too well how last minute results can go against the team, so each blew a sigh of relief when the Pumas imploded. They tried their best, but came up short.

Victory for Australia

Dean Mumm and Michael Hooper of the Wallabies talks after the match between the Wallabies and Argentina (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Withstanding two yellow cards is a credit to Australia’s self resilience. They would have played for each other, played for the pride of the jersey. The reward is their second win–an amazing statistic, so far into the season.

The cheer made at the end of the game would have been self relief. The players enjoyed it, Cheika had a smile on his face yes, but it’s not a huge celebration. Muted as much by a lack of winning, but by the injury cloud.

Pocock will not travel to Loftus Versfeld to encounter a ‘limping Springbok’. Hurt badly by the All Blacks, they are lethal when threatened. It won’t be an easy trip without him–the return rubber against Argentina a week later has been scheduled for Twickenham.

The prognosis on the team, will be just as compounding.

Plenty to work on first

The reason is in the fine detail:

  • Argentina tallied 67 percent possession and 68 percent territory
  • Australia missed 23 tackles, but the 84 percent completion rate is an improvement
  • Australia won 84% of their rucks, with Argentina winning 95% negating the Wallabies loose trio’s ability to secure turnovers. Most turnovers were from silly handling errors by the Pumas (again)

One positive is that with that win, Australia just manage to retain their World Rugby test ranking. Sitting behind England in third, and well behind New Zealand, it might be only fleeting if a loss in the republic undoes all this good work.

But still, victory for Australia is well overdue. The hard work still needs to be done, so like the Championship, any ‘speed wobbles’ in the next two away games, will devalue this victory.

And then, they head to Eden Park and enter the fortress of the New Zealand World Champions. Still plenty of work ahead for the Wallabies and Michael Cheika.

“Main photo credit”


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