Planet Rugby

Wallabies hot and cold

29th September 2007 15:43


Adam Freier congrats

Job done: Adam Freier is congratulated after scoring Australia's second try

Australia delivered a patchy performance ahead of their quarter-final with England, beating Canada 37-6 in Bordeaux on Saturday.

It took the Wallabies over an hour to stretch their lead beyond 12 points, and it was only a late brace of tries from Drew Mitchell that gave the score the dominant look.

For the large part, and in atrocious weather, the Wallabies were error-prone and disjointed, and there were several additional injuries to furrow the brow of John Connolly.

Once again a capacity crowd weathered the weather and crammed into the rain-soaked Stade Chaban-Delmas, only to take entertainment from a tide of Mexican waves.

With Australia having already sealed their place at the top of Pool B, someone forgot to tell the two-time world champions that they still had another game to play.

Connolly had fielded a second-string outfit to finish off the job, but the fringe players would have done little - if not nothing - to convince the coach of their worth in the knock-out stages.

England will certainly be thinking they just might be in with a chance if the men in green and gold put in another ordinary performance when the 2003 finalists meet in Marseilles on October 6.

Hats off to Canada though, who hardly gave Australia an inch with some courageous defence that contributed in slowing the ball down in contact, preventing any real flow for the Wallabies.

The Canucks inspirational work-rate around the pitch made the Australians look sloppy in all facets of the game - it was as if they didn't want to be there.

Defeat for Canada, meanwhile, makes them the first Canadian side to return home without at least one victory in the competition. It would have been a miracle if they had won this game and they knew it.

The Canucks were playing for pride and respect, with captain and scrum-half Morgan Williams, along with Rod Snow and Mike James, playing their last game in a Canada jersey.

It was never likely to be a match of huge intensity and there was a carnival and fun atmosphere as a brass band played, and supporters under cover of the stand threw down ponchos to those in the seats open to the rain which came down heavily.

On the field, Australia had the scoreboard ticking with the game barely a minute old, fly-half Julian Huxley kicking the penalty after Canada had infringed at a maul.

The Canadian pack, however, prides itself on their physicality and was holding its own with James and Dave Biddle, in particular, putting in big hits on the lacklustre Wallabies.

Flanker Hugh McMeniman appeared to have burrowed over for the first try after 19 minutes. But he was adjudged by TMO Lyndon Bray to have been held up by Williams, thanks to a knee getting in the way of the ball.

When the Canadian defence was finally breached in the 24th minute it came unusually from the ball being moved swiftly from a ruck to the left wing where prop Al Baxter was on hand to take the pass and bulldoze his way over.

The play for the main part was as dull as the Bordeaux weather and Australia's second try summed up the half with the Wallabies pack grinding forward, gradually inching their way to the Canadian line before hooker Adam Freier dropped on the ball.

It was not exactly flair-filled rugby but effective, even if Huxley did miss the most routine of conversions.

The best moment of the half came on the stroke of half-time when Lote Tuqiri went darting through but his floated pass was fumbled by wing Cameron Shepherd, leaving the half-time score at 13-0.

Canada finally managed to get some points on the board soon after the restart when winger James Pritchard slotted over a penalty.

However the Canucks were guilty of handing over Australia's third try on a silver platter after a botched line-out resulted in captain George Smith scoring his simplest try of his career.

Replacement hooker Aaron Carpenter threw the ball over the head of his jumper into the hands of Smith who set up a tricky conversion for Huxley that was duly missed.

The score took the Australians 18-3 clear and gave them a measure of comfort, although Canada's riposte was swift with Pritchard's second penalty.

Connolly would have been slightly concerned when number eight David Lyons was helped off the field and later seen leaving the grounds in a wheel chair. It was later confirmed that the Waratahs star had suffered a nasty ankle injury.

As the match wore on, the Canucks began to tire, resulting in a number of gaps opening up for the Australians; Lote Tuqiri was guilty on a couple of occasions for going for glory instead of passing.

However, Drew Mitchell made sure of the Wallabies' next two tries that confirmed him as the sole leading try-scorer at the Rugby World Cup, with seven tries to his name.

The Force winger cashed in with his brace in as many minutes.

The first came when Mitchell collected a lofted kick by Huxley, leaving a juggle with the unkind bounce of the ball before controlling well enough to power over.

With Huxley having an awful day with the boot, Shepherd was called to take over the kicking duties and slotted the first conversion of the match.

The second Mitchell touchdown was the best try of the match with Tuqiri slicing through the Canada defence once more.

The centre finally passed the ball to a charging Chris Latham who then allowed Mitchell to twist and turn his way over for a fine five-pointer.

Tuqiri's quality was also in evidence when he again turned provider to put full-back Chris Latham in for Australia's sixth try to wrap up the game and send the winless Canadians home.

But at least the Canucks can leave with their heads held high.

Man of the match: Morgan Williams and Mike James capped off their illustrious careers with another fine display in a Canada jersey. Williams was responsible for two try-saving tackles in the first and second half that could have resulted in a much bigger scoreline at the final whistle. Whoever steps in for these two players, have mighty boots to fill indeed. Not many Australians put their hands up. Centre Lote Tuqiri made some superb breaks but acted more like a winger and failed to put in that final pass. Drew Mitchell was always looking for work and was rewarded with two tries for his efforts. But our vote goes to full-back Chris Latham whose precise kicking led to three tries from a line-out. When he wasn't kicking he was running, and this led to Mitchell's second try as well as the Wallabies' sixth and final touchdown.

Moment of the match: Tricky this one. One could point out either of Mitchell's tries, purely based on the fact that something was finally clicking in the Wallabies camp. But we decided to go for Morgan Williams' try-saving tackle on Hugh McMeniman in the first half. Williams wasn't shy expressing his issues with the match officials' calls against his team at the World Cup, and the Canucks' skipper would have been happy that one of them finally went his team's way.

Villain of the match: The Wallabies escape this reward for their lackadaisical-seeming approach only because of a concerted effort in the final 30 minutes of the match - just.

The scorers:

For Australia:

Tries: Baxter, Freier, Smith, Mitchell 2, Latham

Cons: Shepherd 2

Pen: Huxley

For Canada:

Pens: Pritchard 2

Australia: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Cameron Shepherd, 13 Lote Tuqiri, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Julian Huxley, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 David Lyons, 7 George Smith (c), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Greg Holmes

Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Guy Shepherdson, 18 Rocky Elsom, 19 Phil Waugh, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 George Gregan, 22 Matt Giteau

Canada: 15 DTH van der Merwe, 14 Justin Mensah-Coker, 13 Mike Pyke, 12 Derek Daypuck, 11 James Pritchard, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Morgan Williams (c), 8 Sean-Michael Stephen, 7 Dave Biddle, 6 Colin Yukes, 5 Mike James, 4 Luke Tait, 3 Jon Thiel, 2 Pat Riordan, 1 Rod Snow

Replacements: 16 Aaron Carpenter, 17 Dan Pletch, 18 Mike Pletch, 19 Mike Burak, 20 Mike Webb, 21 Ed Fairhurst, 22 Dave Spicer

Referee: Chris White

Touch judges: Steve Walsh, Bryce Lawrence

Television match official: Lyndon Bray

Assessor: Michel Lamoulie

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