ABs’ textbook triumph: Read it and weep
Coaching teams against the All Blacks must be a miserable way to earn a living. Ask Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. This Bledisloe Cup dead rubber at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama was a chance for the Australians to issue a reminder to the All Blacks that while they already had the ‘‘Bleddie’’ in their treasure chest, they still should be wary of their trans-Tasman foe ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan. Nope, sorry. Life isn’t fair. The All Blacks didn’t produce a dynamite performance during this 37-20 victory, but, then again, there was no need to. By the 60th minute the contest was essentially over, with the men in black ahead 27-13 in front of around 46,000 fans in a cavernous stadium that caters for around 72,000 punters. First five-eighth Beauden Barrett didn’t have his Rolls-Royce engine gunning at full throttle, but it was close enough as he took 17 points from a try, three conversions and two penalties. Now, back to Cheika who, if some reports are to be believed, is fighting for his job after a miserable Rugby Championship campaign and 2-1 series loss to Ireland. He certainly behaved like a man who is under considerable pressure during this match. Unlike many stadiums around the world, the coach’s box in Yokohama is an open-air model and, hence, anyone sitting within a 20-metre radius of Cheika got some first-rate entertainment as he slapped his desktop in frustration and shouted instructions to, presumably, one of his cohorts on the sideline or at referee Romain Poite. Not that the regular eruptions helped the Wallabies in any way, but at least Cheika probably felt he was getting his point across to anyone who cared to listen. To his credit, he kept his cool when replacement hooker Silatolu Latu was yellow-carded for a silly slap to the face of his opposite Codie Taylor, but maybe Cheika knew the game was over with 13 minutes remaining. It certainly was a few heartbeats later when All Blacks wing Ben Smith scored a runaway try. The Wallabies had their chances, wing Sefa Naivalu scored a try during the first spell and offers pace and power down the wide lanes, but ultimately they were not anywhere near good enough even with their breakdown scrapper David Pocock giving it everything. The All Blacks’ scrum was dominant, and, too often, their backs found space. Little wonder, then, that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen looked as calm as a bloke sitting on a royal flush in a poker game. Lock Brodie Retallick made a welcome return from injury when offloaded from the bench during the second spell, as did tighthead prop Nepo Laulala, in his first test appearance of the year after a serious arm injury. The first half must have been murder on Cheika’s nerves; the Wallabies coach was forced to
Cheika was extremely vocal in the minutes before All Blacks skipper Kieran Read scored a ridiculously easy try.
watch his side miscalculate passes, either firing them too low or at support runners’ hips, and that allowed the All Blacks easy opportunities to heave in the big ones, regroup and sharpen their bayonets. Cheika was extremely vocal in the minutes before All Blacks skipper Kieran Read scored a ridiculously easy try off a 5m scrum, striding with ease through a passive tackle by blindside flanker Ned Hanigan. At least Naivalu did his best to ice his gaffer’s fury, barging through a Barrett tackle a few minutes before the break to reduce the deficit to seven points. French club Pau is reported to have secured Smith’s services after the World Cup; if so, they will have enjoyed watching the thoroughbred’s effort in Yokohama. Now Smith, along with 21 other key members of the squad, will be shipped to London to prepare to face England in a fortnight. Next week Japan will meet a second-string All Blacks side in Tokyo. Then for the big ones against England, and then the Irish in Dublin.
First five-eighth Beauden Barrett didn’t have his Rolls-Royce engine gunning at full throttle, but it was close enough as he took 17 points from a try, three conversions and two penalties.