Time-wasting Wallabies Bledisloe Cup hopes dashed (yet) again

Time-wasting Wallabies Bledisloe Cup hopes dashed (yet) again
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With fingers pointing at Bernard Foley and match referee Mathieu Raynal, it was a harsh end to such a sensational game – unfortunately, a match where any Wallabies Bledisloe Cup ambitions were dashed by a freekick penalty that stalled a fast-finishing Australian team in Melbourne.

The game had fans on the edges of their seats. Over 70 points were scored, four tries scored by the hosts, with three of those coming after the 60-minute. It was pointing to a sensational conclusion. Yet in a bizarre twist, a prolonged delay when recalled Wallabies first-five Bernard Foley was supposed to kick for a lineout, the match official’s frustration came to the surface. Mathieu Raynal reversed the decision, calling out Foley for delaying the kick, in reaction to time-wasting from the placekicker.

A stunned Australian group of players had to then endure the pain of both having their possession removed, as well as an attacking All Blacks side aiming clearly for the red zone. And score they did, reversing the 37-34 scoreline back to their advantage. Fullback Jordie Barrett crossed in the 81-minute. It was an incredible response and it rubbed salt in the wound of the Wallabies who might still find a complaint about how their possession was taken away – but they will also hate the fact the All Blacks were able to take the opportunity that the hosts might have thought ‘was in their grasp’.

Not holding the Bledisloe Cup for 20 years now, it seems that the improvement under Dave Rennie may have seen them with their best opportunity to wrestle the Cup off New Zealand. That was until a 40-second set of actions conspired to undermine all the good that captain James Slipper and his men displayed at Marvel Stadium.

Was it legitimate? That can be discussed and argued for both Yes and No. Many moments can be identified that led to the action from the referee. He had cautioned Foley within the first 10 minutes of the game, for not taking a freekick quickly enough. It was just how unceremonious it was to those expecting the action on the field to determine the outcome. Harsh, and some have called it petty, yet it is within the letter of the law (see the tweet from former ref Nigel Owens). And that is the defence that World Rugby will contest when Rugby Australia asks for a ‘please explain’ this week.

Time-wasting Wallabies Bledisloe Cup hopes dashed (yet) again

Words like ‘disgraceful, ridiculous’ and others have been spoken in the media. Also, there have been a number of supportive calls for the actions of the match official. It depends on which view you take, and who you’re associated with. Australian fans find it a disgrace, while New Zealand supporters offer a more balanced impression. Yet it is contentious and has taken some of the gloss off what was a game with everything in it.

Some tweets have been so precise, that they show second-by-second detail of how the interaction between referee Mathieu Raynal and Bernard Foley proceeded with the change in possession.

What should also be recognized in any balanced report, were the earlier calls from Raynal for Foley to not waste time when taking any kicks. He would likely have spoken to All Blacks’ kickers Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett, yet it is escalated because of the resulting outcome. If the New Zealand team were still unable to convert their opportunity, then there would have been less outrage. It is a ’cause and effect’ in motion.

Interpretation is what the argument needs to focus on. The why, in relation to actions of one player that was highlighted by the match official. The occasions and time during the match should not have as much impact on why the judgment was that Mathieu Raynol gave kicker Bernard Foley every indication that he needed to ‘hurry up.’ It was not hidden, with teammates of the Australian also remonstrating with their first five to take the kick. So was it not obvious to the 71-test veteran Wallaby?

Foley was presented to the media a day after the incident. In his own words, he believed ‘my conversation with him, he told me to hurry up, and that time was off [clock was stopped]. He really didn’t mention that there would be any further action.” Foley also said, “It’s done now, we’ve got to move on.”

With the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup goals now gone – as the holder, New Zealand only needs to win one match to retain the trophy – the Aussie men must pack up their troubles, and resolve to put on a display that illustrates how this group has improved. After starting 2022 with a series loss to England, it might have been a disaster, yet Dave Rennie has adapted his side to play to their potential. And they surely put on a very impressive second-half comeback to almost take the result.

He has needed to, with regular captain Michael Hooper absent, many injuries depleting the stocks of his first-choice first five starters. That was how Foley was reinstated. Yet now, the decision to go with experience has not played out as he was expecting. In fact, some would say that overconfidence might have been a tactic that backfired badly.

Samu, Valentine, and Kellaway gave Wallabies Bledisloe Cup hope

It would be a huge shame to overlook the performances of some individuals from both sides involved in a ‘cracker’ of a game. 37-39 does show that the match wasn’t an example of fine defence – sometimes these make for exciting and heart-stopping fixtures.

For the hosts, several men stood out. These included Pete Samu, Rob Valetini, and outside back Andrew Kellaway. They all produced fine demonstrations, with much of the play from the 60-minute being some of the finest Wallabies attack of this season. Showing that the result was not only defined by the referee. The 23 men wearing Gold all participated.

Samu was sensational. He is fast emerging as one of the very best openside flankers. His speed and versatility compliments so well with the rugged play of Rob Valetini. With 27 and 26 tests between them, Australia might be looking at a combination that will surprise and captivates their supporters. Different from the long career of Michael Hooper, his likely return offers the balance every International side must have to challenge New Zealand.

Then throw in the stylish play of Kellaway. With that certain quality which greats like David Campese and Matt Burke. His clean running and the ability to feed off what few crumbs come his way. Opportunities must be jumped on, and when Andrew Kellaway can gain space outside his man – as he proved in Super Rugby – there are few who can equal him. His try on the 61-minute began a swing in momentum and was in fact coordinated by a fine Bernard Foley slip pass [marginally forward]. His follow-up try was even better.

Wallabies lock, Jed Holloway on the loss

Honest assessments are hard to find in any lost match, yet in his first Bledisloe test, Wallabies lock Jed Holloway was gracious in defeat. “Super disappointed. Just like every Australian is here,” Holloway said. “The referee has a job to do. We were not good enough. Props to New Zealand. They are world-class. We have to go back to the drawing board.”

That is certainly true. And many individuals proved they can travel to New Zealand for the second Test at Eden Park knowing that with a better respect for the basics of the game, the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup record can show a win, that’s if they cut out some of the rubbish. Maintain 15 players in the park. And hold their nerve for the whole 80 minutes. Because if they do not, then 20 years could stretch on for a lot longer than it might need to.

 

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