Wallabies made to work by Gloucester
November 3, 2009
Australia's Drew Mitchell races away to score one of his two tries against Gloucester at Kingsholm
© Getty Images
Australia returned to winning ways with a 36-5 victory over Gloucester in their latest tour clash at Kingsholm.
The midweek Wallabies were thoroughly tested by their unheralded Premiership opponents with first-half tries by centres Ryan Cross and Tyrone Smith putting them on course for victory. Wing Drew Mitchell also notched a late double and a Quade Cooper solo score finished Gloucester off. Fly-half Cooper booted four conversions and kicked an early penalty, but Gloucester deserved so much more than fullback Freddie Burns' well-worked touchdown.
Despite fielding several fringe first-team players and only a handful of internationals, Gloucester displayed character and commitment by the bucket-load. Had they shown more composure in attack, then the game could have proved distinctly uncomfortable for a Wallabies outfit that had been expected to record a landslide success.
Few of tonight's starting line-up are expected to feature against England at Twickenham on Saturday, but coach Robbie Deans would still have expected a more fluent performance. A 5-1 try-count failed to tell the full story, and there is little doubt Gloucester will feel aggrieved by the final margin of defeat.
Australia, making their first visit to Gloucester since they beat the South West 28 years ago, fielded a team containing nine internationals, but only one survivor - Cross - from last Saturday's defeat against New Zealand in Tokyo.
Gloucester though, greeted them with a shadow side, parading just four players that started the Premiership clash against Sale Sharks four days ago. And head coach Bryan Redpath's selection would undoubtedly have disappointed a capacity 16,500 crowd anxious to see their team hit some form following a dismal start to the Premiership campaign.
But Gloucester gave as good as they got during the opening exchanges despite falling behind to a fourth-minute Cooper penalty. Fly-half Carlos Spencer mixed his kicking game cleverly, while the game's intensity was highlighted by a dust-up between the forwards as Gloucester looked to make their presence felt.
Australia took a while to settle, yet they stung Gloucester through a 13th-minute try set up by a rampaging run from hooker Tatafu Polata. Retreating Gloucester defenders managed to haul him down just before the line, only for Cooper to kick a resulting penalty from hand straight to an unmarked Cross, who applied a neat finish by cutting back inside for the touchdown.
Cooper converted, giving the Wallabies a 10-0 lead and suggesting they were already on their way to an emphatic success. Gloucester were determined to maintain a high tempo, despite the deficit, and their adventurous approach reaped its reward on the fourth occasion Spencer rejected a kickable penalty.
The home forwards powerfully drove the resulting lineout, before Spencer launched one his trademark cross-kicks that found wing Charlie Sharples and he sent Burns diving over. Gloucester were certainly in no mood to lie down quietly against such illustrious opponents, but Australia underlined their class with another quality score eight minutes before the break.
Cross sliced through Gloucester's defence, and the supporting Smith finished off for a try that Cooper improved, giving Australia a 17-5 interval advantage. Gloucester knew they had to score first after the break, and Australia's defence was stretched when scrum-half Dave Lewis made a determined dart for the line.
But the home side were also guilty of some wayward passing, blowing overlap opportunities on three occasions when they had gilt-edged chances to attack from deep.
Both sides began ringing the substitutions - Gloucester speedster James Simpson-Daniel and experienced Wallabies prop Matt Dunning were among those who joined the action - yet much of the action proved little more than a midfield slog. And it took an inspired run by Wallabies lock Dave Dennis to finally break Gloucester's resistance.
Dennis powered deep into the heart of Gloucester territory, before a slick inside pass to Mitchell saw the wing sprint clear for a game-clinching try. Cooper added the extras, putting Australia out of sight at 24-5 ahead and leaving Gloucester with only consolation points to aim for. But Mitchell then stormed over for his second try, before Cooper had the final say with a touchdown and two conversions as Australia eased past 30 points.
Australia coach Robbie Deans relished the opportunity of a rare midweek tour fixture and looked forward to similar clashes. "We would love to do it again," said Deans. "The blokes really enjoyed it. It was great for us to have the opportunity of rugby outside of a Test match. Gloucester played with a lot of spirit and asked quite a bit of our guys, but we finished strongly."
"Our guys wanted to make the most of it," added Deans. "A lot of them are only going to play twice on tour. When you are going from Test match to Test match, you don't get the opportunity to give guys that development time on the field."
Gloucester captain Jake Boer was hugely disappointed with the margin of defeat, claiming: "We played all the rugby. It seems to be the story of our season. We made too many basic errors, and Australia took their opportunities.
"At this level you are not going to get away with making mistakes. They didn't really play in our half, but this game is about winning. I just feel frustrated for the guys - rugby can be a cruel game. We played some good stuff out there, but we need to start getting some results. All we can do is to keep working."
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game