Magical Beale the real deal
November 7, 2010
Kurtley Beale lit up the Wallabies' win over Wales © Getty Images
This current bunch of Wallabies will never die wondering. To a man, their attacking resolve lit up their Millennium Stadium win over Wales and they always seemed capable of containing the spirited local challenge.
For the second week in a row, Australia played with little usable scrum ball, a problem exacerbated by the late withdrawal of experienced hooker Stephen Moore, yet that hurdle failed to disrupt the rhythm elsewhere.
The exuberant young Wallaby backs launched themselves with the precision and inventiveness of a laser light display. Probing, piercing, angling and darting, all at breakneck pace and always asking questions of the defence.
While the exciting Quade Cooper has thus far commanded the spotlight with an instinctive ability to press the right buttons, Australian schoolboy contemporary Kurtley Beale served notice that henceforth, the rave reviews will be shared around.
What is so exhilarating about watching Cooper, Beale and young James O'Connor is their innate recognition of space and opportunity, plus their awareness of each other. First instinct is always to keep the ball and second is to create. Beale's breathtaking near try in the second-half highlighted his electrifying talent. High ball, spectacular regather, grubber, dribble, then early dive with roll. It was the choreography of a rugby genius. His effort came within a whisker of conjuring one of the all-time great individual tries.
Foremost, though, Australia's victory was founded on defence. Most times Welsh momentum was cut down before it could kick out of first gear. It is hard to recall a single line-break as the home team cried out for more creativity with the ball. One or two more like minds closer to the action, to complement diminutive Shane Williams, would have put Australia under more pressure. The kick in behind mostly back-fired, however the high kick to Beale at the back was definitely under utilized.
But for all Australia's attacking superiority, the normally reliable Stephen Jones definitely missed an opportunity to apply the blow torch, missing two straightforward penalty kicks in the first half. In the same period, Wales also turned over a lot of Australian ball at the breakdown. The razor-sharp response of the previous week in Hong Kong appeared to be on 'one second delay' - a situation that will be punished by Lewis Moody and Co. at Twickenham.
One wonders about the potential of this Australian side if they can sort out their scrum problems. With so much attack now centred round the set pieces, the men in gold are wasting too much energy with their inability to secure a stable scrum platform. Not that it seemed to dampen enthusiasm. Front-rowers Benn Robinson, Saia Faingaa and Ben Alexander popped up all over the place and despite his workover, it was fitting that 'Big Ben' Alexander scored the match-sealing try.
English eyes will light up at the prospect of re-engaging what they perceive as an under-manned Aussie scrum. It was a bad day at that office and the post mortem should prioritize the need for all hands on deck when push comes to shove. It took nearly 70 minutes to get that message across and although Wales scored their only try from the set piece, it was the first time in the game that the Australian scrum really dug in and operated as a fully committed eight man unit.
Overall though, the Wallabies will take huge satisfaction from this win. For much of the game, the Welsh were simply not allowed to play by an enthusiastic, cohesive opponent that convincingly overcame shortcomings. Winger Drew Mitchell lived right up to his new nickname of 'Le Gunfighter' as he shot down any opponent who crossed his path in attack or defence. Will Genia is getting back to his best as the little general. His options and tackling were a feature.
Robbie Deans and the Australian rugby public are now demanding consistency of performance. The full measure of progress will be on display against an England outfit that faced up strongly to the All Blacks and offered more in attack than Wales.
A final word on the referee. I believe that Wayne Barnes is the best in the business. His clarity and speed of thought allow him to make incisive, authoritative decisions that set him apart when the pace is full-on like it was in Cardiff.
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