The ultimate disappointment comes from the fact that the Wallabies had that game. Retaining 65% possession and 61% of territory, they were ahead at half time and 17-7 up after 45 minutes. With ball in hand out wide they carved upfield, driving right into the All Black 22 on four or more occasions, each time to splutter out with indecision (or wrong decision) from an achingly slow Cordingly, or a mystical decision from Kaplan.
Still, even though they could have, and should have been at least 2 tries further ahead after 50 minutes, the game was very much theirs until the disturbing Wallaby trend of 2008 – letting in soft defensive tries – got a full airing; 3 within 15 minutes. And this ignores the Muliaina try abomination in the first half, when half of the team lined up on the wrong side of the ruck to mark 2 men. Where was that amazing scrambling D off the line, infuriating the opposition into turn-overs?
So while we should have been overjoyed with the last minute comeback to score one try and threaten another, instead I was thinking – “What a fµcking show. Don’t give me last minute futile comebacks, give me some mental cahones when it matters.”
Along with mental and defensive frailty, another disturbing advent of 2008 appears to be a lack of fitness. I’m still finding it hard to believe this myself but it was painfully exposed in JoBurg (compounded by altitude) and yesterday we had forwards (and Cordingly) walking between rucks. Witness the final turnover (and many throughout the match) when the ABs simply had more men where they needed it when they needed it, who didn’t look like they’d just climbed K2.
The glass half full version? The scrum and the line-out were strong, in fact slightly stronger than the ABs, as demonstrated by the couple of line-out steals and tight heads. Stealing a scrum turnover to set up a try in the dying minutes is pretty impressive. That’s a long way since our fears of capitulation just last season.
The other upside, I guess, is that this close loss came missing two of the three first choice Wallaby inside backs. I’ll save my ire for Cordingly’s player rating, but his 80 minute clusterfµck and the gaping hole screaming for a second play maker were the difference in this game.
So sure, there’s the blueprint of success here, but some big, obvious problems that need attention in the coming months. As solace for the pain, that’s where it get’s interesting again.