Test Match Review

Australia vs Ireland

9th June, 2018

Final Score: Australia 18 – Ireland 9

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)


The whole is more than the sum of its parts – Aristotle

When the old Greek fella said these words, he had no idea that somebody would one day inflate a pig’s bladder and start playing team games with it. He certainly had no concept for a game like rugby, and he had, beyond a doubt, no idea of the existence of the great big island that we now call Australia. The world was still flat back in Ari’s days and it would be a while before it rounded itself into the rough shape of an orange with a weirdly shaped two-horned bit on the far side of the orange.

But his words do resonate across the ages, and none more accurately than when we describe the Australian Wallabies.

Aristotle’s words remind us that what one can do, many can do better.

This Wallaby outfit is a much better rugby team than the pile of parts that make up the whole.

Taken as individual components, the Reds, the Brumbies, Rebels and Waratahs are not the most powerful, consistent, or exciting rugby teams in the Super Rugby firmament. They mostly inhabit the bottom half of the overall log, despite their top side mysteriously qualifying for a quarterfinal berth. This guaranteed quarterfinal spot is akin to Prince Charlie being guaranteed the top job in England when his mum departs this mortal coil. No matter what Charlie’s qualifications are, he will get the job. No matter how many games the top Aussie team wins in Super Rugby, they are guaranteed a spot in the quarters.

Enough about Super Rugby.

This is about a Wallaby performance that was somewhat unexpected, with a number of unpredictable factors worthy of comment.

In my preview I spoke of the frailty of the defence of Kerevi, Foley and Beale. All three sit on or near the top of the stats in Super Rugby for missing tackles.

Somehow they fixed those problems as the Wallabies managed to shut down the Irish backline almost completely. Using the “Rush” defence system they

gave Joey Carbery no room to think or move at 10, and shut down Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw completely, preventing Ireland from getting any width on the attack. Bundee Aki is supposed to be the clever, thinking 12, but under pressure he offered nothing worth mentioning on Saturday. There was no variety, very little straight running or distribution from the New Zealand born 28-year old.

I do not have access to the stats from this game, so I cannot comment on tackles made or missed, but the impression gained while watching is that the three usual suspects actually made all their tackles! The Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the Wallabies achieved a 90% tackle success rate, and I will not argue that figure.

The Wallaby defence in the first 15 minutes set the tone for the entire game. There was a crunching tackle by Hooper that simply flattened debutant flyhalf Joey Carbery, leaving him looking just a little tentative for the rest of the first half.

Speaking of Carbery, I cannot understand Warren Gatland’s thinking in giving the youngster the starting role in this Test. Perhaps there was an element of arrogance? Over-confidence? Johnny Sexton has been the leader of both the Irish attack and their defence right through the 6-Nations. His experience and his technical nous were sorely missed as Carbery was simply not able to exert any influence on the game. Sexton’s leadership and management of the Irish defence was a key factor in their 6-Nations season, and his absence resulted in the Irish giving the Wallabies more room than they had expected, allowing them to play with a width that might otherwise have been denied. I wonder why Gatland waited so long before sending Sexton out?

The extra space and time afforded to Foley and Beale allowed them the time to be accurate, with clinical precision to their kicks and passes. The extra moment is all that is needed at this level, and it gave the Wallaby kick-chasers that extra second to build up pace and momentum, while running accurately.

With the added freedom allowed by the Irish defence, Australia simply took control of the game, using Beale as an alternate or second receiver in many phases. His chip kicks and variety from inside centre added to Ireland’s problems as they were forced to keep turning around.

Once the kick-chasers and tacklers had tied up the Irish, it was time for the David Pocock show!

In his best performance in a Wallaby jersey in many a year. Pocock brought a steely, determined physicality to the game. He was simply unstoppable at the breakdown, either clearing Irishmen from the fringes or the top of the ruck, or securing the turnover. If he was not taking the ball away from them, he was slowing the Irish ball down, preventing them from quick recycles and putting some pace into their game.

If any one person was responsible for the Irish woes, it was David Pocock.

He allowed Michael Hooper the freedom to roam the field as he likes to do, and gave the rest of the forwards the momentum to take the game away from the visitors.

In almost every respect, this game gives the Wallabies and Australian rugby some hope for the future. The administrators were hoping for a crowd of 42 000, the Brisbanites surprised them as 46,273 turned up to watch Australia beat Ireland..

For the record:

The Wallabies broke Ireland’s 11-game winning streak as they overcame the Grand Slam champions 18-9 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

Bernard Foley and David Pocock scored tries for the hosts as they produced a superb defensive performance, soaking up the Irish pressure and taking their chances when they got deep into opposition territory.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Foley, Pocock
Con: Foley
Pens: Foley 2

For Ireland:
Pens: Carbery 3

The Teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Dane Haylett-Petty, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Reece Hodge

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Iain Henderson, 4 James Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Jordan Larmour