Late try clinches Wallaby win
Gavin Rich
July 18, 2015

Tevita Kuridrani scored a last gasp try that required some deliberation from the TMO as the Wallabies fought back from what at one stage was a 13 point deficit to clinch an exciting 24-20 win over the Springboks in their Castle Lager Rugby clash in Brisbane on Saturday.

Kuridrani forced the ball down on the line as the Wallabies put in a last desperate effort to break down a determined Bok defensive system with a sustained build-up off the last movement of the game. They were trailing by three points after an attempted equalising penalty had been missed, and the win will be seen as reward for their bravery in trying for the win rather than the draw as skipper Stephen Moore eschewed another kickable penalty awarded shortly after that.

As a first test match for both teams in this World Cup year, the contest delivered in terms of quality and excitement, and both sides will feel they learned a lot from a closely fought contest that looked like it was heading South Africa’s way at the hour mark when they appeared to be well in control.

That was after a superb try on debut from young outside centre Jesse Kriel that put the Boks 20-7 up. At that point the Boks were getting enough possession and playing the ball in the right areas of the field, and several questions were being answered positively.

Kriel was one of those positives, with both he and Damian de Allende confirming that they are the business and can do the job together if regular captain Jean de Villiers does not recover from his knee reconstruction sufficiently to make it to the World Cup. Kriel and De Allende were part of a massive defensive effort, and they also showed neat touches on attack.

De Allende perhaps should be more precise in his decision making when he has ball in hand, and a try scoring opportunity might have been wasted when a skip pass from Ruan Pienaar from a defensive scrum set him free up the right flank but he didn’t use the unmarked JP Pietersen outside him.

That was during a first half which the Boks shaded even though they lost skipper Victor Matfield with what looked like a hamstring injury halfway through it. But while the Boks did lack some of their usual authority in the lineouts when the Wallabies came back at them after halftime, Matfield’s absence did answer another question – Lood de Jager was outstanding as his replacement, with both he and Eben Etzebeth getting through a mountain of work both in carrying and on defence.

The good news is that Matfield’s injury is believed to be not too serious, so he will be back in the mix shortly, but the big potential loss for the Boks with the World Cup in mind was the knee injury suffered by Marcell Coetzee in the second half. Reports coming back from Brisbane suggest it is a medial injury, which could mean that Coetzee’s participation in the World Cup is in doubt.

If that proves the case it will be a huge blow for the Boks as the loose-forward configuration was probably the most positive aspect of the match for the visitors. Indeed, it is hard to remember when last the Boks dominated the Wallabies on the ground as they did in this game, with the selection of Schalk Burger as a No 8 coming up trumps for the Bok coach.

With Bismarck du Plessis putting in his usually impressive work in grappling for the ball on the ground, and flyhalf Handre Pollard being one of a clutch of other players who also helped out in that regard, it was hard for the Wallabies to get their usual phase play going.

However, what they would have learned from the game was the effectiveness of having two fetchers in Michael Hooper and David Pocock playing together. It was after Pocock was introduced following the Kriel try that the game changed, with the Wallabies dominating possession and territory in the last half hour, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence.

It might not have been a coincidence either that the impressive Bok scrumming lost its authority after the first choice front row was replaced, and Bismarck du Plessis’ departure from the field was particularly questionable given how much he was contributing with his allround play.

His brother Jannie for the second successive week played like a man possessed and in addition to a strong scrumming performance he contributed in the tight loose. That is a question that has probably already been answered for Meyer – Du Plessis can certainly front the Bok scrum at the World Cup.

But there were also some key substitutions in the Wallaby scrum that made a difference to the home team’s effectiveness, most notably the addition of Scott Sio, and that needs to be factored in before taking a line on whether the South African replacements Heinke van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Frans Malherbe dented their own World Cup hopes.

The Boks started strongly and could have been up 3-0 after just four minutes but Pollard, who improved his place-kicking as the match progressed and produced some good and bad touches in general play, hit the posts. He was on target though in the 15th minute and the territorial ascendancy was translated into a 6-0 lead when he kicked another penalty 10 minutes later.

One of Pollard’s bad moments then followed when Pollard missed a tackle as Adam Ashley-Cooper took an excellent inside ball from Quade Cooper to score the first Wallaby try which gave them a one point lead with 33 minutes gone. Matt Giteau, back in the Wallaby team for the first time since 2011, also figured strongly in the build-up and his performance was a positive for Australia.

Then came a Pollard stroke of genius, with a pop kick onto the Aussie line when the Boks were playing penalty advantage being tapped back by Bryan Habana. Willie le Roux gathered the ball and brought the strength of Etzebeth into play on his outside as the lock forced his way over for his first test try and a 13-7 halftime lead for the Boks.

The Wallabies really did dominate the game after Kriel slid away for his try that gave the Boks scoreboard dominance, so the fact that they took so long to break down the Bok defence can be seen as another positive in that it was another area of the game that passed the examination with flying colours.

The decision to award Kuridrani the match winning try was a close call as the ball’s tip was only just forced down on the line and Burger looked like he had his hand on it throughout the process. However, on the balance of the game, the Wallabies just about deserved to win, with Cooper missing an easy penalty during the second half and Giteau missing one that would have brought the scores level after 78 minutes.

The Boks missed some scoring opportunities in the first half and the Wallabies missed some in the second, so both teams will go away knowing they have much to work on as the World Cup build-up continues with the Boks hosting the All Blacks and the Wallabies visiting Argentina next week.


Australia – Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper and Tevita Kuridrani; Conversions: Quade Cooper 2 and Matt Giteau; Penalty: Quade Cooper.

South Africa – Tries: Eben Etzebeth and Jesse Kriel; Conversions: Handre Pollard 2; Penalties: Handre Pollard 2.

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