Five things we learnt

All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams puts Quade Cooper on his back at Eden Park on Saturday.Talking points from the All Blacks v Wallabies Test.
Nanjing Night Net

1. We can cut through the post-match spin. Discussion has been plentiful about whether the All Blacks were simply unplayable, but some statistics might put a different slant on that. Although their physical superiority was clear to see, they turned over possession 24 times – way too high – and made more than double the handling errors (13 to 6) than the Wallabies, four of them in Australia’s 22. This probably kept the score down more than the Wallabies’ defensive resolve, as the All Blacks still broke 1 in 5.1 tackles – in line with their average in 2012. If the All Blacks are the benchmark then this is a bad Wallabies side – unacceptably, it’s even uncertain whether the levels of commitment are equal across the team – and it could have been 40-0 on Saturday.

2. The fitness levels aren’t where they need to be. The talk from the players that it was unusually tough might have stemmed from the length of time the ball was in play on Saturday night. In the second half, it was live for 21 minutes. That’s almost five minutes more than the Wallabies have been used to in 2012, and they were found wanting. For the last 30 minutes, the All Blacks were effectively playing a game against their own high standards – the Wallabies just happened to be on the pitch at the same time. They mightn’t be unfit, but they are a level below where the All Blacks are heading.

3. The search for a No.10 goes on. Quade Cooper was poor when it mattered, again. He has a get-out-jail-card of course, one used frequently by his supporters – he can’t operate behind a beaten forward pack. But this is a gross oversimplification of the five-eighth’s role, as shown by one incident in particular. In the 13th minute, Michael Hooper won a hard-fought turnover penalty – and Cooper failed to find touch. That is a slap in face for his forwards and so far below Test standard it’s subterranean. It’s his job to get his big men moving forward, a role which Berrick Barnes failed at miserably, too. By 30 minutes in Cooper had kicked poorly three times, missed two tackles and ran sideways into big tackles by Kieran Read and Sonny Bill Williams. Perhaps that knee is causing more angst than we are aware, but the Cooper of Saturday night would struggle for a place in Australia’s best 22 were Christian Lealiifano, James O’Connor and Pat McCabe fit.

4. Will Genia needs a break. The Reds and Wallabies have asked a lot of the little genius for the past two years and it is beginning to show. He has played tired for the past two weeks, outplayed by Aaron Smith, and when you see him making terrible decisions such as playing the ball on the ground in front of the ref you know some mental refreshment is required. And if he continues to play these minutes it increases the risk he will break down physically. It is time – belatedly – that either Nick Phipps or Nic White are given the chance to step up, at least for some significant time off the bench.

5. There is always some silver lining. Young Michael Hooper showed that he is a Test player, and Sitaleki Timani indicated that he is beginning to grasp what’s required of his huge frame. Adam Ashley-Cooper also put in some tremendous tackles. But it was the events in Mendoza, Argentina over the weekend that offered the best hope for the game against the Springboks game in Perth on Saturday week. South Africa, having started the season imposingly in the first two Tests against England, have been laboured since then. In their past three Tests they have drawn against England, won without style against Argentina at home, and drawn against the Pumas away from home. Robbie Deans is not the only coach under pressure. Heyneke Meyer has made some strange selection decisions – promoting the likes of Jacques Potgieter ahead of Heinrich Brussow – and the Wallabies could have a field day at the breakdown.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Posted by at 21/11/2018
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