I thought last night was a pretty good start to our season.
We were a bit rusty, and combinations were clearly lacking as the team struggled to gel in the early stages. But we fought back well in the last half an hour, and gave Wallaby fans plenty to be optimistic about. With a bit of polish this team really could be something special.
I’ll say before I start that I don’t think anyone had an especially bad game. A few were quiet, but there were no hair-brained errors, or players clearly out of their depth. My main criticism was the lack of effective forward ball carriers in the first 50 minutes. Our pigs didn’t make ground, didn’t break tackles, and didn’t give Genia any options or go-forward ball to work with. This was a problem that affected the ratings of each of our starting pack.
I expect Cheika to tinker with the line-up somewhat, but I also expect all 23 who appeared tonight to play prominent roles in the RWC.
Anyway, here are my ratings:
Looked a long way from the player who took out the G&GR Player of the Year for 2014. Ball carries were generally ineffective, and the scrum struggled in the first half. Not bad for a first hit-out in a while and his workrate was decent, but we need him to find some form quickly. 5
Gets points for leadership and a good lineout, but I thought he was quiet overall. We needed a few more strong carries from him, especially in the first half. Like Slipper it was a solid return to test football, but he is capable of better. 6
Like Moore and Slipper, he didn’t let the side down, but he was pretty anonymous. That is OK for your tighthead when the scrum is solid, but the Boks were on top at the set piece so I can’t be too positive unfortunately. Has a great ball-carrying game, but we never saw it. Made a great try saving tackle on De Allende at the end of the first half after Cooper’s flick-pass. 5
Has incurred the wrath of the online rugby masses, but after multiple viewings of the match I am not sure why. His carrying was solid if unspectacular, and only one of his eight carries was particularly poor. We rely on him too much to carry us over the gain line, but I’m not sure that is his fault. Gave away one penalty, fell off a tackle or two, but nothing that had a huge negative impact on our performance. Scrummaging needs work. Overall he’s in the same class as most of the starting pack – a solid outing but we need more. 5
At the risk of repeating myself, I thought he needed to do a bit more. Was fairly anonymous actually, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a lock. Lineout ran seamlessly, so gets a point for that. But (like Skelton) he needs to follow the lead of Eben Etzebeth and show a bit more mongrel. 6
Apart from the lineout I was disappointed in Fardy. He really gave us nothing. No big hits, no barging runs over the gainline. His stats aren’t that good, either. It gives weight to the dual openside argument, as both Hooper and Pocock are miles ahead of him in both attack and defence. No mistakes though, so that’s something. 5
All heart. His power in defence is something remarkable, and he made the game changing play late in the second half when he knocked Schalk back over his goal-line to set up a 5m scrum, which he then scored from. (Dual opensides, Cheik. Do it!) But I would have liked to see him get his hands on the ball a bit more, especially in the first half. 8
Like Fardy, he was good in the lineout (took a great steal) but offered very little else around the park. For a number 8 we need more bone-crunching impact. His chip and chase was the wrong option, poorly executed. Rusty. 5
Looked a bit short of a run, and was shown up by the speed and accuracy of Phipps’ delivery in the second half. Sanchez wasn’t bad, though I’d love to see his running game come back to keep the pillar/post defenders on their toes. Knee injury is not too serious, so he’ll get another chance. 5
He played OK. Considering his injury battles, lack of game time and the solid Bok defence I thought he showed enough to suggest he can do the job for us this season. Kicking was good (except for that one horrible penalty shank), passing was good, option taking generally OK. Probably needed to flatten the line a bit, and be a bit more direct, but that will improve. A good start. 6
Solid. Did everything that was asked of him, without having many opportunities. Defended well. 6
Like Quade I thought he showed enough to suggest he will play a role in our RWC campaign. He didn’t nail down a starting spot, but he did the basics well and provided some nice leadership in the backs. I’m still not sure he is big enough to play 12, and he lacks the physicality that Toomua possesses, but it was nice to see him back. 6
This bloke just grows another leg when he puts on the Wallaby jersey. I love it. We relied on him too heavily in the first 50 minutes to get us over the gainline, giving him very little space to work with. But he toiled and toiled, and reaped the rewards in the final minutes. His try was a thing of beauty, stepping up in the big moment. He’s going to be fun to watch this season. 8
I’ll just copy one of my ratings for AAC from one of his previous 104 tests. Ran hard, tackled hard, never let the side down. Scored a nice try. You wouldn’t want it any other way. 7
Remember when we used to look away in anguish any time a high ball went up? As one of our backs would stand helplessly underneath as the ball swirled, and then inevitably make a vain atempt that would see the ball cannon off a head, arm or shoulder into the arms of the oncoming defence?? Seems like decades ago now. This was one of Israel’s best efforts. Gave us the solid platform on which we based our attack. He gets the nod as my G&GR Man of the Match 9
Made a big impact in his 15 minutes. Scrummed well, ran well. Putting real pressure on Slipper for a starting spot. I could have put his real picture here, but this one came up when I searched and it’s too good to resist… 7
Welcome back old soldier. Got caught behind the gain line on a few carries, but his scrummaging more than made up for that. Great to see him back out there. 7
Gave us a real shot in the arm in the last half hour. Made a number of big runs, and shored up our creaking scrum. There is life in him yet. 7
A great return to test footy. Tackled, pilfered and carried very effectively. His combination with Hooper was a thing of beauty. Pushing for a starting spot 7.
A big reason for our second half resurgence. Ramped up the pace of play noticeably, and allowed our backs to operate with a bit more space and time. His pass for Kuridrani’s try went unnoticed, but it was an inch-perfect bullet. 7
Test quality player. Straightened our attack well and steered us over the finish line. Will be a big part of our RWC campaign. 7
Was solid in a game where our wingers didn’t see much space. Like Giteau he did enough to show he still belongs at international level. 6
I’ve got some space left on this template, so I thought I would give old Nige a shout out. He had a belter. Kept the game flowing well, ignored the little stuff and allowed both sides to have a real crack. The blueprint performance for the 2015 season. 9
The patented G&GR ratings guide:
10 – A legendary performance to go down in the history books
9 – Outstanding performance: Man of the match shoo-in
8 – Excellent all-round game
7 – Good game with a few sparkles
6 – Solid performance
5 – Average – ho hum
4 – Below par
3 – Had a bad game
2 – Tell your story walking pal
1 – A complete joke So am I on the money?