While it lacked the exhilarating triumph of our game against New Zealand, our outing against Wales confirmed that we are in fact the real deal. The first half score line was flattering for the Welsh, considering how dominant we were. They were playing football not dissimilar to that we were offering up early on in the season. Opportunities were missed and handling errors were enemy number one. They were rushing and it was because of the pressure they were under across the park.
Our forwards had a solid game and after a few indiscretions early on our set piece became a real asset, acting as a platform from which to score tries. As the commentators marveled at us electing to take a scrum after being penalised in the one previous, I had to laugh. Of course we would take that chance to set things right, on our terms and get our confidence back up. We secured the ball and scrummaged admirably for the rest of the game.
I was pleased to see the ref let play continue on a number of occasions when the scrum collapsed after the ball was out. It is how it should be, reducing the impact and lag that scrum resets bring to the game. The game was played at a rapid pace and we thrived on it. After the intensity of the game against New Zealand we certainly weren’t shying away from big hits.
While it was an impressive team effort, I have to call out the superstars we currently have sitting at 9, 10 and 15 (but let’s be honest 12). Genia is really back to his best, taking charge and directing play with confidence. Foley is bringing the varied attack that we were treated to this weekend and I feel it has a lot to do with the guy out there with him. While Kurtley was at fullback this weekend, it is no longer where he belongs. Whatever the number on his back said, he was playing as a 12. He is our second option, taking the heat off Foley and offering up something that means an eye must always be kept on him.
The Welsh got a reminder of that when he managed to turn a tackle into a try. It was completely demoralising for the Welsh and highlighted what a superstar he is. I am far from sold on Kerevi at 12 and couldn’t ignore the amount of ball he lost through contact. Without Folau I think we have to play Hunt at 15 and let Kurtley shine in the number 12 jersey he now owns.
What really impressed me about this match was our ability to stay calm and absorb pressure. As Hooper departed for the sin bin with just over 12 minutes to go, I was panicking. I would happily lose anyone but him at such a critical time. To their credit though they stood tall and didn’t let the situation undo all their hard work. Wales deserved the try that eventually came at the death, but they didn’t deserve the win.
To his credit what Cheika has now built is a team. They are succeeding because they have the confidence in each other that they can get the job done. Wales scored, we needed to reply and we did. That is what makes a good team. While you could never bank on a try like Beale’s, the rest of our points came through strong, patient support play. It is sustainable football, you only need to look at New Zealand’s record to know that. A solid start to our spring tour, but I have no doubt there is plenty of magic left to witness yet.