The Growden Report
Wallabies will find nourishment from meager fare
June 16, 2014
Michael Hooper led from the front in Melbourne © Getty Images
From lobster bisque to a bowl of gruel. And no, we're not queuing up to plead: "Please sir, I want some more."
Wallabies followers are accustomed to being under-nourished considering the crazy form fluctuations the national team has recently experienced, but the stomach rumblings on Saturday night were for a different reason. What was ordered from an appealing menu didn't actually arrive.
For the first time in some years, the green-and-gold scarf brigade headed into a Test arena assuming snap, crackle, pop; it was the least to expect after the feast in Brisbane, where the Wallabies performed with such gusto that it appeared a revitalising new era of Australian running rugby was upon us. However we had all been misled, because one week later it was back to the old dirge. Too much poorly directed kicking, much of it unnecessary. Too many brain-dead moments. Too much dead-time. Chances wasted. And absolutely no tries.
Nonetheless, despite the Melbourne Test being a downer primarily because of the lush delicacies served up just seven days earlier, it is not yet time to moan that there is a big hairy fly doing backstrokes in your French Onion soup.
Australia 6-0 France (video available only in Australia)
This Test will soon be forgotten, while the way in which the Wallabies secured the victory will be invaluable for their psyche and their belief when they are confronted by more important international opponents later in the year.
Great teams know how to play pretty. They also know when they have to take the pauper approach. Most importantly, they know how to close out games. The All Blacks are the masters of all three; that was again on show against England in Dunedin. The Wallabies are beginners in all three - but are gradually starting to learn.
The Wallabies' inability to win the tight ones has been a critical fault in their structure in recent time; whether it was a lack of fitness, lack of belief, or lack of ability, they often fell away in the final stages to lose unnecessarily.
This Test looked for a short period as if it was going to go the same way. At last the French in the final few minutes attempted something that actually resembled an attacking move, which forced the Wallabies to scramble. And scramble they did to keep France scoreless to win the series and ensure the Australian Rugby Union can show something off in their relatively barren trophy cabinet at St Leonards.
As Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie rightfully said at the press conference: "We toughed this out. Maybe in the past this is a game we wouldn't have won. At least we are showing week to week ways to win the game."
Australia take positives from narrow France win%]
Just as long as they don't do it this way too often, otherwise the boos from the crowd that greeted the Wallabies' decision to go for a penalty goal to open their scoring in the 53rd minute will get louder and more venomous.
McKenzie, who made plenty of hints during the media conference that he expected the press to give his team a right pounding for dumbing down their game, pushed the positives; like all coaches. But it was clear during the Test that he was far from relaxed.
McKenzie, with earpiece and microphone in place, allowed Fox Sports viewers to eavesdrop on his sideline messages during the game. And so we discovered that the coach, while keeping his composure, wasn't happy that the Wallabies were too lateral, were not respecting the opposition, and needed to increase their tempo when the French had one player in the sin-bin.
The question was: who exactly was McKenzie talking to? Was it a mate down the pub, who fed up with what he saw had got in contact to issue his complaint?
And so, another lost opportunity. Can you imagine if they instead had the Waratahs fire-and-brimstone leader, Michael Cheika, mic'd up on the sideline? That would have immediately transformed this Melbourne fizzer into a ratings winner.
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