Wallabies lose, but show signs of improvement

Wallabies lose, but show signs of improvement
Jack Dempsey made a strong return from injury. Photo: David Molloy Photography, Wikimedia Commons

The Wallabies lost the third Bledisloe Test in Japan 37-20, but the score line did not reflect how even the two sides were for the majority of the match. Unlike the usual pattern at this time of year, which typically sees the Wallabies ambush a flat All Black side after the series is already lost, both sides brought their A games to Yokohama.

The Wallabies set piece, their perennial weakness, was ruthlessly exploited by the well drilled New Zealand pack. This was the only area of the game where the All Blacks had a clear advantage, and they used it to set up two tries and cruel a number of Australian attacking opportunities. Without the edge from this area of the game the result would probably have been a lot more even.

Ball in hand the Wallabies carried on their second half from Salta, with big forwards running straight and hard, making fast metres and creating space for a flashy backline to go for the corners. The New Zealand defence, however, held firm and on a number of occasions the Australians would surrender a turnover while hot on the attack. There were also a number of occasions when the Wallabies were denied a try by strong last-ditch defence.

A piece of idiocy by replacement hooker Tolu Latu saw him sent to the sin bin for the second time in two games with 20 minutes to go, with New Zealand scoring a minute later from an intercept pass to put the result beyond doubt at 30-13. Israel Folau scored to bring the Wallabies to 20 points, but by then it was too late – and the All Blacks scored again anyway.

When Israel Folau was named at outside centre it was expected that he would be targeted and that the Wallabies midfield defence would be a glaring weakness. As it turned out this was not the case, although it was harder to get Folau into the kind of finishing positions where he could be best used. Among other positives Samu Kerevi and Jack Dempsey both made strong international comebacks after injuries, and have probably stamped themselves onto the team sheet for Cardiff in two weeks.