Wallabies effective, just what they needed
November 25, 2013
Israel Folau sliced through the Scotland defence after a lovely inside ball from Quade Cooper © Getty Images
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The Edinburgh Test match was a case of the Wallabies, in trying times, keeping it simple, getting in, doing the job, and getting out of there as soon as they could. It was a sound performance by Australia, which was never going to spectacular after losing four key attacking players through injury, suspension and late night shenanigans. With a revamped backline, there was always going to be mishaps, and missed calls, but thankfully Quade Cooper and Israel Folau showed the required level of composure to get on top of an opposition who were not much more than a bunch of scrappers.
Although lacking talent and nous, Scotland always somehow fluster the Wallabies, because their prime aim is to obstruct and destruct. They effectively slow down the opposition play, burrowing away and falling all over the place at the breakdown, ensuring that Test matches are fractured affairs. Their plan is further aided by regularly playing on a rice paddy field, otherwise known as Murrayfield. And when you have such an irritating referee as Jaco Peyper in charge, the South African who gets a real kick out of blowing up every breakdown, it turns into a tedious, often painful, occasion.
There wasn't much beauty in this Test, but at least Folau gave us enough moments of attacking gloss to stop us nodding off. Folau's understanding of how Cooper plays is improving in every Test, and they have now become a productive and dangerous combination. Like Digby Ioane, Folau is aware of the rewards that come from being a blowfly around Cooper, who relishes putting a large, creative athlete into space. Cooper has the ball skills and sense of timing, and Folau the physique, pace and prowess to finish it off, as shown when the Wallabies playmaker threw his fullback the perfect pass that led to the newcomer's ninth Test try. From turnover play, Cooper was smart enough to notice lumbering Scottish forwards hovering in midfield, and he gave Folau the ball, knowing the fullback could show them up. Folau skipped through the Scotland defenders as if they were battered witch's hats.
Australia were effective in grinding out a tough victory (video available only in Australia)
The other encouraging sign was that of James Horwill starting to find form. After being way off the pace for most of the year, which may have had something to do with playing with injuries, Horwill produced his most prominent performance of the year. He was dominant at lineout time, while his defence and general field work was notable.
The Wallabies' lineout performance was probably their best feature, succeeding in destabilising Scotland, especially when the home team had the throw. But the Wallabies forwards again suffered through poor discipline, with the latest yellow card victim being Rob Simmons for a harebrained retaliatory punch to an opponent.
As for the Dublin Six who had to watch from the sidelines, Adam Ashley-Cooper will come straight back in against Wales, most probably at outside centre as Christian Leali'ifano appeared off the pace. Leali'ifano goal kicking was astray and he was caught out of position when Scotland made one of their few attacking plays during the second half. Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia made the most of their occasional chances out on the wings, but Nick Cummins should still take one of their spots for the Cardiff tour ender.
The Wallabies' forwards are performing well enough to overcome Wales next Saturday. But it will be more a case of whatever backline Ewen McKenzie comes up with having the ability to match an opposition who are also bound to play wide. Whoever makes the most from opposition attacking mistakes and fractured play will win this Test. So the Wallabies have an enormous advantage with Folau on their side.
Did Chris Feauai-Sautia do enough to retain a starting berth against Wales? © Getty Images
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