Australia faces a mountain to climb in the Rugby Championship after losing two key men in a week, but they started their ascent with an encouraging come-from behind 41-26 win over Argentina. Who starred and who stumbled in Mendoza.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie can’t get a break. In the last week he’s had news of Samu Kerevi’s ACL, Michael Hooper’s decision to take leave from the team and now an Achilles rupture to his star No.10 Quade Cooper which leaves his World Cup hopes in doubt.
In the 47 minutes Cooper was on the field he showed what Australia had been missing against England.
“He had some really, really good moments,” said Jim Tucker on The Roar’s instant reaction podcast.
“The way he held that ball that little bit longer to put Jordan Petaia through the gap for the first try was something we didn’t see against England where we had a distribution where blokes were running into other blokes. Cooper just adds that subtlety that I really love.
“But the brutal assessment is that Quade won’t play again in the RC which means another season goes by without us seeing him against the All Blacks who are his nemesis. “
As befitting a five-try victory there were many more studs than duds on Sunday, although Harry Jones pointed at the performance of Scottish referee Mike Adamson, who blew for 30 penalties.
“I never bash refs and I won’t even mention his name, but there was a gentleman out there today running around with a whistle, who looked like he didn’t understand what he was watching,” said Harry Jones on the Instant Reaction podcast.
“I don’t think it was unfair or fair for one team or the other. I just think he sometimes just did not know what he was talking about. It detracted from a very interesting game, a crazy fun game. I just think sometimes he was whistling things up and explaining them in a strange way. So yeah, I wasn’t there for that.”
Brett McKay was troubled by Australia’s poor discipline in the first half and said they could have been further behind than 19-10.
“The first half their decision making was just horrendous at times,” said McKay on the Instant Reaction pod.
“Every time Argentina got into the Wallabies half in the first half, they went away with points and so for all the talk about the Wallabies needing to get better at their discipline and better their decision making, we didn’t see a lot of evidence of that, unfortunately through that through that first half.”
Cooper was replaced on 47 minutes by Reece Hodge at flyhalf and he was much improved from his performance against England in the third Test where he was used at fullback.
Tucker named him as a player whose stocks rose in Mendoza.
“I would say, Reece Hodge, and mainly because I thought he’s had a really poor season,” said Tucker. “Lots of errors dropped high kicks and poor at fullback, and I thought he was just on the way out as a Wallaby, as harsh as that might seem.
“But he played a very understated role, very much the experienced man that held things together. And probably the balance improved. Hunter Paisami lifted after that and took a bit more on.”
McKay was impressed by hooker Folau Fainga’a, who started after Dave Porecki suffered a concussion in training.
“He well have played his best Test,” said McKay. “He was just brilliant. He was strong where he needed to be, and his lineout throwing was great. He was good around the ground, defended really, really strongly.”
Harry Jones went with debutant Jed Holloway as his rising star from this match.”
He carried Fraser McReight over the tryline. His tackles were ferocious and he had a lineout presence,” Jones said. “I kind of wish I had seen Jed Holloway in the English series it would have been interesting. I know he had an injury but that would have been could have been a game changer.”
The Stan Sport pundits were impressed with McReight’s performance at No.7 in the absence of Hooper.
“Fraser’s got that full spectrum of skills. He’ll be stoked with a nice meat pie,” said former teammate Matt Toomua.
Allana Ferguson said the try was hugely influential. “But aside from going over the try his influence the way that he was bending the line, he’s always competing. We saw so much of his skill set. He was non-stop the entire time.”
Morgan Turinui was also impressed with his efforts.
“He has such a wide range of skills and the great thing was he was able in this match to put it into place,” Turinui said.
“At Test level, it’s not always easy. And I loved his accuracy. I think that’s probably been the development for him – he’s probably a better body over the ball as a jackler than a Michael Hooper. But it’s his error rate and just decision-making. That’s where Hooper has been elite for so long.”
Turinui also called out Marika Koroibete for another all action performance.
“He’s changing the way wingers play the game. His workload is unparalleled across the whole world of the game,” Turinui said.
“He’s ever present. And even when he doesn’t touch the ball, people are marking him.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, felt Paisami stepped up with Cooper off the park.
“Really impressive,” she said. “I even thought his response in the second half in the way that he controlled a little bit more with Quade going off – but from the get go he backed himself. He played with his confidence in his style.
“He’s not always to script in terms of sticking to set piece structure, but that’s why he’s so brilliant. He takes the line on and sees those opportunities. He’s constantly asking questions of the defenders.”
Rugby – The Roar