On paper at least, an 18-all try-less draw certainly indicates that there no winners, least of all the game of Rugby, but last night the Wallabies further pointed to a depth of character within the squad that rarely receives the credit it’s due. Sure the Wallabies continue to display a frustrating ineptness when it comes to execution and tactics (28 phases of pick-and-drive in field goal range with scores locked in finals minutes of the game), but Robbie Deans must be congratulated for galvanising a depleted squad in the wake of some potential disastrous off field scandals.
The Wallabies have consciously avoided falling back on injuries as in excuse this season but the fact that their injured first-15 is better team on paper than the one that took the field last night is a credit to the fringe players, such as Mike Harris, Nick Cummins, and Nick Phipps, who have made the most of their opportunities. Out of the 3 Super Rugby nations, it’s obvious that Australia suffers the most from lack of depth. Australia has a talent pool to sustain one, possible two, genuinely competitive Super Rugby teams, with the remaining three struggling to keep the head above water against New Zealand and South African franchises. While the injury toll isn’t an excuse, the coaching staff and the last players standing deserve their dues for stepping up.
Quade Cooper’s decision to break ranks had the potential to cause of rift of Kangaroo proportions. It’s obviously been a tough year for the beleaguered fly-half. On the heels of a disappointing World Cup came a serious long term knee injury from which he has yet to return to his best form. Pushing all that frustration and blame on to the Wallabies coaching staff was a dud move however. As a fan, watching Quade fumble through recent tests was infuriating, but at least he was tying. You take the good with the bad because when he’s good, he is a test match winner but turning on his own was an act that will be hard to reconcile for fans let alone his fellow players and couching staff. That’s a shame because firepower in the backs has been a huge issues for the Wallabies. The All Blacks have excellent defence but 1 try in 240 minutes of rugby against NZ is pretty depressing.
Next up is the spring tour. Taking on France, England, Italy, and Wales will be tough but do tasks get any sterner than last night’s Bledisloe mismatch? Blowing out to +$5, the Wallabies were given no chance of winning. They fact that the game was theirs to lose at 16-6 with half an hour to play only makes the draw harder to swallow. With Nathan Sharp pushing his retirement back again, it will allow one last opportunity for the young forwards to extract every last bit of rugby knowledge from the Wallaby legend. It will be a taxing tour but going off last night’s performance, one in which the second string Wallabies are up to tackle.
Pictures by Matt Roberts and Cameron Spencer at Getty Images