The Wallabies have been left to rue missed opportunities in their third loss to the All Blacks in this year’s Bledisloe Cup.
Different city, same Wallabies.
Ahead of the third Test, Michael Hooper said the Wallabies would need to put in an 80-minute performance if they were any chance of avoiding a Bledisloe Cup whitewash.
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Reflecting on the first two Bledisloe Tests — played at Auckland’s Eden Park last month — the skipper lamented the Wallabies’ inability both to withstand the All Blacks’ pressure and to capitalise on their own opportunities.
He’ll leave Perth a very frustrated man after Sunday’s 38-21 loss.
The Wallabies once again put themselves in positions to win the game but were thwarted by lapses in concentration and poor execution in crucial moments.
Samu Kerevi, playing his first Test since 2019, proved a wise inclusion, looking powerful with every touch and going very close to setting up a try in the opening minutes.
It was the first of many “almosts” for the home side in the first half. A bomb to Andrew Kellaway’s wing was too difficult to handle. The TMO overturned a Koroibete try on the basis of a second movement.
By contrast, the All Blacks were once again able to withstand pressure and apply it more effectively than their trans-Tasman rivals.
Even without captain Sam Whitelock and first-choice halves pairing Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga, the Kiwis’ synergy with ball in hand was ominous.
Stand-in fly-half Beauden Barrett sent a crisp grubber through the middle of the park and, after some quick hands, his brother Jordie claimed the first try of the match.
After two Wallaby near-misses, the All Blacks had their second when David Havili barged over in the shadow of halftime.
The Wallabies needed to be the first to score in the second half.
When Kellaway broke through, the All Blacks were forced to scramble in cover defence. Kerevi found Folau Fainga’a, and finally, points were on the board.
The momentum was to be short lived. Minutes later, Akira Ioane cut loose on the right edge, and when he passed to Will Jordan, the All Blacks were home.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said the loss was a “frustrating” one.
“We created so many opportunities and against the All Blacks, if you don’t nail them, they’ve got the ability to go 90 metres to score,” he said.
“I think we’re creating strides in regard to our ability to create opportunities, but we’ve got to be far more clinical.”
The last time the Wallabies played New Zealand in Perth, Samu Kerevi steamrolled Beauden Barrett on his way to setting up a Nic White try.
Within three minutes of Kerevi’s return to the fold, history looked to have repeated itself.
Kerevi pushed through the All Blacks and connected with Marika Koroibete for what looked to be a classic try.
It wasn’t to be, though — the TMO ruled that Kerevi was in front of the ruck when he picked the ball up.
Unhappier memories were evoked when Havili and TJ Perenara picked off wayward Wallaby passes in the second half. The pair’s adept defensive reads led to the All Blacks’ fourth and fifth intercept tries of the 2021 Bledisloe Cup.
Jordie Barrett went from hero to zero in a matter of minutes.
Shortly after scoring the first try of the game, the Kiwi fullback jumped to catch a bomb, and as he did so, his boot collected Koroibete’s head.
Referee Damon Murphy had little choice but to order Barrett from the field, even though the kick appeared accidental and the fullback was quick to check on the welfare of Koroibete, who himself was red-carded in the final game of Australia’s recent Test series with France.
It was the second card of this year’s Bledisloe Cup, after Ardie Savea copped a yellow in the second Test.
As was the case on that occasion, the Wallabies not only couldn’t make the most of the advantage, but leaked a try while the All Blacks were a man down.
Bound for Queensland
The Wallabies will have little time to stew. Dave Rennie’s men are booked on a flight to Queensland on Monday, where they will meet South Africa and Argentina in their remaining Rugby Championship games.
“We’re learning quickly,” Rennie said.
“We’ve got the World Champions (South Africa) coming up for a couple of Tests.”
Captain Hooper confirmed Quade Cooper, who was once again overlooked for selection in the third Bledisloe Test, would travel to Queensland. It remains to be seen whether the veteran will be called up for his first Wallabies match since 2017.