In front of a poor crowd on the wet Gold Coast, the Wallabies managed to hold off the Pumas in very ordinary fa- You know what? Let’s just stop right there.
I’ve copped some shit on here for – justifiably – giving Queensland some shit around these parts, so before anyone assumes anything, let me say this: I’m not going to slag Simmons in this article. Oh no. I’ve got a bigger target…
If its “beautiful one day, perfect the next”, could you bloody well organise at least one of the two on a rugby night? Yep we had a wet Bledisloe in Sydney, but that’s not the point, because we’re not Queensland. Queensland loves to carry on like it invented sunshine and warm weather instead of just bad beer. But the Gold Coast was wetter than an otter’s pocket tonight, and after watching the mighty Rams belt
Sydney Uni Sydney Stars in glorious Sydney sunshine today, that was quite disappointing.
Last warning. You can keep your stupid humidity but no rain in Bledisloe 3 alright?
While admiring the Argies’ away strip, I was quite concerned that we were going to get pumped, particularly at scrum time. My perfectly reasonable anxiety rose a notch when we scored a try in the first three minutes, because by now all Wallaby fans should know that a red-hot start for us usually means we’ve peaked, and it isn’t going to get any better.
The leadup across the team was excellent despite the conditions. Crisp passing, good cleanout by the forwards, a bit of interchange, before a great flat ball from Foley across two other players found Hooper in the outside centre channel. The skipper sprinted, stepped, and barged over, setting a great example for the team. But as we looked to build pressure, we got a bit overeager, and the accuracy started to drop.
Betham chose to run the ball back (correctly) but at a subsequent ruck the ball was knocked loose as Phipps tripped, and the excellent Montero took off upfield, shaking three tacklers as he scored an opportunistic try.
The possession was running in favour of the home side to the tune of 75%, and any ball Argentina got, they seemed to kick straight back. This paid dividends a couple of times as Folau uncharacteristically knocked on, or the ball went to deck during the rush to score points by the men in gold.
But if the visitors sought to overpower our scrum, they were reminded that nothing is a foregone conclusion, with the Wallabies tight five really barring up, holding their ground or producing penalties of their own.
Key to this was the presence of Polota-Nau, whose experience and strength through the middle of the pack helped negate the bajadita. When you add in his excellent lineout throwing, it showed just what a step up guys like TPN and Moore provide to a Wallaby pack. Dare I say it, good enough to be the difference in Sydney last month? Oh I dare, don’t you worry about that.
We made the mistake of looking for easy metres wide rather than through the middle, and as the first quarter came to a close, the Argentinians were just fanning out and letting the wet weather be their 16th man. Phipps should be marked down for his play in this period, particularly the quick tap when 3 points right in front was on offer on a wet night. Hooper was heard to be yelling NO into the ref’s microphone, and at the next two opportunities late in the half, he pointed at the sticks.
At this point the blue scrum was getting a bit wary of Jackson – who they started calling el despistado – and the Wallabies eight started to exert a little more pressure and even some dominance, as Slipper took advantage of his opponent packing a little high.
Foley ignored Horne for a “sure thing” under the posts. However, after watching it on replay I think Foley was half-right – he’d successfully dummied Imhoff, and if it wasn’t for being blindsided by a large, angry steak eating machine, he would have scored himself; the alternative could have involved Imhoff intercepting the ball and running length of the field.
The real culprit was ultimately Hooper, who got offside ingoal and obstructed the defence as we tried to reset, and the Pumas kicked to safety.
Another steal from Simmons followed, denying Argentina any momentum. Simmons was also involved around the park, moving the ball around, even hitting a ruck or two with effect. By my count he was not penalised once, and turned in the kind of performance we’ve been waiting for since Europe 2013.
Yet again, we pressed close, and yet again we coughed it up through white line fever. After the patience and execution we showed for the first try, this was becoming a really disappointing theme for the evening.
After another great hook from a now-injured TPN at scrum time, a further opportunity was lost through a cynical foul by Sanchez, which I really thought deserved a yellow card at that point and Hooper should have been in Jackon’s ear. Foley stepped up and made the halftime scoreline 14-7.
Hanson came on as the second half got underway. There was an immediate change of focus in the golden shirts – the restart was taken and mauled, and fast ball presented on the blind side. As we marched downfield from the penalty, the Argie umbrella defence was being nullified by our one-out running close to the ruck, and some more clinical work cleaning blue shirts out.
Still they fanned out, and still we punched up the meter readings. All of a sudden, after a few nothing plays on the Argie 22, Hooper pounced again as Montero failed to read a kick. Converted by Foley, the score looked fairly comfortable at 21-7.
A borderline call against Fardy presented Sanchez with a chance to claw back some points, but he missed and the way he was hitting the ball, Sanchez must have been mad with himself. Filthy, even.
Mayhap… Dirty? Yes kids, that’s a Dirty Sanchez joke… I’m not too proud to stoop. It was karma that he missed because it was a bad call. So there.
The Pumas repeated the dose at the restart, producing some minutes of sustained pressure, and capitalising on weak defence and a tactic of not kicking the ball away. Sanchez (*snigger*) put the kick over, and the Wallabies were suddenly having trouble with securing the ball.
The game settled into a little bit of drudge. The officials decided to collectively flip the bird at the Laws and let the players sort it out, which generally they did. The Argie lineout was falling somewhat to pieces in the face of sustained pressure, and the first scrum for Cowan and Hanson resulted in a penalty to the Wallabies.
Beale strolled onto the park for Toomua, and after we got another penalty (with no yellow card) Foley slotted the 3, having stopped to put flippers on as the rain got heavier. Fernandez Lobbe and Sanchez (*snigger*) were seen in the background discussing plans for an Ark as the scoreboard ticked over to 24-10.
Some really poor work from Hanson at the restart allowed the Argies to power upfield, but then, in what religious zealots are calling one of the impending signs of Apocalypse, Kurtley Beale made a tackle. Let that sink in for a minute. Doing everything he should be doing i.e. taking away space from the ball carrier, going low, and driving through, Beale actually tackled someone. F*** me Agnes!
Sanchez put another penalty through as a subsequent scrum went down and it was 24-13 to the home side.
The high point of the night was achieved as Foley took the kick return from the restart. He faked to kick, then ran, passed to Phipps who flicked the nitrous, burned upfield, and hit Betham with a great pass, the Waratahs and Makos man finishing brilliantly in the corner. About bloody time! The conversion was pulled from wide out, and the heart rate settled at 29-13.
The home side replacements were not having quite the same impact as the Pumas bench, and both the scrum and lineout started to creak under Hanson’s guidance. The big cats smelled blood, and the now-unfunny Sanchez found new gears, putting runners through a Wallaby defence unable to react. After sustained pressure, Bosch went over untouched in the corner, and just to spite me, Sanchez popped over the conversion like it wasn’t even a thing.
Foley made another break, but no-one was with him except Higgers, who couldn’t quite scoop up the offload. The resulting scrum resulted in Alexander getting folded and the Argies kicking for touch. Despite their maul being sacked, replacement halfback Cubelli was reading from the same hymn chart as Sanchez, and everything seemed to be happening for Los Pumas as a result. Horne coughed up the ball from a Wallabies five metre scrum, and the turnover went to Sanchez, who put through a beautiful kick for Tuculet to run onto and score. Again, Sanchez missed a relatively straightforward kick, the 2 points being potentially costly as it would have put them within kicking distance of a win.
Hodgson, replacing McCalman, was playing like a man possessed and won a penalty at ruck time to restore the 7 point margin, but again the Pumas surged upfield, with any semblance of a Wallaby defensive line now in tatters. Only a tiny knock on from Cubelli robbed the game of a draw, but still the Wallabies had to set a scrum, 5 metres out, with three minutes on the clock. Let’s go back and re-live it, because I’m a masochist:
Three minutes, for which all the bench front rowers are on, all looking for the advantage that will not draw the ref’s ire and prevent a loss.
On the first setup, Alexander is warned for his head position.
Next, Jackson goes all Super Nanny, warning that the behaviour of all the naughty children is “unacceptable”.
Finally, we have a scrum, and Cowan is penalised for folding in slightly as the Pumas sheared towards Alexander then turn the corner. Never mind the binding on Cowan’s arm!
The clock is gone. This is it. Now we sort the men from the boys. The wheat from the chaff. The cool guys from the nerds…. All the backs assume the foetal position, knowing its the best possible thing they can do right now…
Engage. Cowan is getting bent. Oh crap. We’re not going to win. Can I handle another draw? The mind numbing void that describes neither victory nor defeat? The utter nothingness that cannot be resolved?
All these thoughts flash through my head as Jackson blows his whistle.
Cubelli has forgotten to wait for the ref’s call. We win! But what an awful way to win.
I’m about to pass out from the nervous energy and sheer rage at our inability to finish opportunities. If you want a MOTM, go ask someone else.
I thought McCalman was ticking all the boxes, showing some real aggression at the ruck and punching the ball up nicely. His brothers in the second row and back row were doing their jobs, so he had the freedom to impose himself on the game. Simmons brought his A-game to the defensive lineout and starting to pick off ball, having done a crash course in Spanish during the week, or something. Slipper was good and TPN really showed the point of difference we’re missing without our top 3 or 4 hookers.
The wet weather and early missed opportunities made us a little hesitant in the second quarter of the game. With 74% possession we really should have been up by another two tries, and putting the game to bed by the 50th minute. A couple of offloads here and there were probably warranted, but the forwards needed to take the game back into their hands.
I just hope Link stripped the f**king paint off the walls in the sheds afterwards, and promised everybody extra hill runs before they jet off overseas.