Cameron Packer 09.Oct.2012
After being comprehensively beaten by the New Zealand Barbarians side last weekend, the Australian side looked like a completely different team than the one that played today.
From the very beginning the side played with a much more aggressive mentality and were able to control the breakdown where last week they were guilty of isolating themselves. This can mostly come down to the amount of changes to the side after the Barbarians loss where many of the Australians best players were rested in preparation for this test.
After last week’s fiasco with the forwards, the Australian team came back strong with a performance that showed all the hallmarks of desperation and heart that comes with the will to win. This was best exemplified in the loose forward trio where all three starters, Mitchell Whiteley, Jack Dempsey and Michael Gunn had outstanding games that killed much of the home side’s momentum whenever it looked like they were going to break through.
Despite this the New Zealand must feel disappointed. Apart from the very beginning of the match the New Zealand side was in control. They showed what power they possessed up front with the likes of Junior Pole, Etimani Sului and So’otalia Fa’aso’o bullying the much more agile Australian side.
This eventuated in the first and only try for the New Zealand side where the decision to go for the lineout instead of a difficult wind affected kick resulted in a dominating maul where Sului scored not long after.
Taking all this into account the New Zealand should have felt that the game was about to break open for them at any moment. They controlled both set pieces emphatically and possessed all of the territory in a game where the wind made every kick difficult. But once the game moved past the halfback the incredible blitzing defence led by the courageous Whitley, put the New Zealand backs under pressure that in most circumstances led to an unfortunate turnover.
This type of play was evident in the first try by the Australians when Whiteley again burst from the defensive line and pressured the New Zealand first-five Beaudein Waaka into an ill timed turnover. A quick recycle later and the Australian backs had all the mismatches they needed to score in the right hand corner by winger Andrew Robinson.
This was one of the few effective back plays of the game as neither team were really able to consistently generate backline phases to break the game open. The Australians in particular were guilty of intentionally slowing the ball down to avoid a quick recycle of play. This allowed winger Broc Hooper to attempt 6 penalty goals in the match but with the severity of the wind none could be considered easy and resulted in the talented back missing 3 of those kicks after a nearly flawless display last weekend.
Ironically the Australian team, void of any backline play and space for most of game, won the match off a brilliant play by the first five, Jake McIntyre. With the Aussie side finally being able to sustain a couple of phases, they quickly got past the advantage line and into the New Zealand 22 metre line. Sensing an opportunity, McIntyre chipped to the corner where they had a potential three on one overlap. The placement was perfect and with one quick offload into Fullback Jonah Placid they scored.
And that was it. That was the difference in the game. The New Zealand side tried to play to their strengths and generate a penalty in field goal range but the Australians dug deep and displayed a level of trust and unity in both attack and defence that is reminiscent of the very best professional sides.
This is the second year in a row the New Zealand side has faced defeat at the hands of their Trans-Tasman rival. After losing last year 19-26 the side has to wait another twelve months to avenge their consecutive losses. Make no mistake next year’s side will be counting down the days till next year’s game where the side can finally reclaim their place on top of their closest rivals.