Richard Kelly
ESPN explains Wallabies' second-half stumbles
Richard Kelly
November 27, 2014
Rob Simmons is the only Wallabies player to score a second-half try on tour © Getty Images
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Michael Cheika was thrown in at the deep end with zero preparation time, and he's also had to contend with the soap opera that has surrounded Australian rugby in recent times; hence wins against the Barbarians and Wales followed by narrow defeats in Paris and Dublin might not make for such bad reading; certainly his first half-term report card as Wallabies supremo, taken under close inspection, would probably be favourable.

But Cheika and the Wallabies still have plenty of work to do ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, as Greg Growden noted this week. And that work continues against England at Twickenham on Saturday, when the Wallabies need to produce an 80-minute performance against a team with whom they will go head-to-head alongside Wales in the 'Pool of Death' in 2015. Not least, they must look to improve their output on the scoreboard in the second half.

The Wallabies under Cheika have scored most of their points come in the first stanza, as have their opponents. Australia have laboured in the second half of their matches under Cheika, posting just one of their eight tries after oranges on tour. Indeed, they have scored more than twice as many points (57) in the first half of their matches than in the second (25) under the 2014 Super Rugby-winning coach.

We've split Australia's performances by first and second half to see where the differences lie in their performance, and hence to offer an illustration for the Wallabies coaching staff and players after Matt Toomua said in London that "the second half has been a bit of an issue for us throughout the whole year".

"I don't have any answers as to why," Toomua said. "If I did, you would probably have seen it out there. But you can see the game actually tighten up towards the end there, so whether that's teams being aware of the situation, I'm not sure."

Well, Matt, here's the answers. You're welcome.

Period12Difference
Points
19
8.3
10.7
Tries
2.3
0.3
2.0
Penalties
1.3
1.7
-0.4
Conversions
1.7
0.3
1.4
Carries
60.0
77.7
-17.7
Metres
220.3
223.3
-3.0
Defenders Beaten
6.7
9.7
-3.0
Clean Breaks
4.7
2.7
2.0
Offloads
3.7
6.3
-2.6
Tackles
49.0
54.7
-5.7
Missed Tackles
7.7
7.0
0.7
Lineouts Won
5
6.3
-1.3
Lineouts Lost
1
0.3
0.7
Scrums Won
1.7
1.3
0.3
Scrums Lost
0
0.7
-0.7
Penalties Conceded
4
7.7
-3.7
Turnovers Conceded
7.3
6.3
1.0
Kicks from hand
8.3
7.7
0.7
Rucks Won
45.3
61.0
-15.7
Rucks Lost
2.3
2.0
0.3

SegmentPointsTriesPenGoalsConsDropsMissed Goals
0-10
0
0
0
0
0
0
11-20
25
3
2
2
0
0
21-30
14
2
0
2
0
1
31-40
18
2
2
1
0
1
41-50
6
0
2
0
0
0
51-60
6
0
2
0
0
0
61-70
0
0
0
0
0
0
71-80
13
1
1
1
1
0

Australia haven't struggled in the second half of their matches under Cheika through lack of opportunities. But his charges can, perhaps, be accused of lacking intensity, which will surely upset the coach more. The Wallabies have enjoyed much more possession in the final 40 minutes of their end-of-year tour matches, having averaged significantly more carries and rucks than in the opening stages, but they have pierced the defensive line far less often despite the increasing total of defenders beaten more or less in line with their total carries. The Wallabies have been more adventurous with their handling in the second half as well, making far more offloads after the break.

The Wallabies' Achilles heel most likely lies within their head and the fitness, as their discipline, quite frankly, has fallen apart in the latter stages of matches. Contrast this with the form and fitness of the All Blacks, as analysed for ESPN by Craig Dowd, the former New Zealand prop saying the Kiwis' "mental fortitude, decision-making and confidence [are] also superior". The two scrums the Wallabies have lost on their own feed have come in the second half of games as well, and Brett McKay has previously illustrated the issues in the set-piece.

Wallabies expecting physical encounter at Twickenham
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Despite a more expansive game, they have showed better respect for the ball in the second period while also making more tackles at a higher success rate.

This leads back to the question of whether Cheika's Wallabies are tenacious enough for the full 80 minutes. You can point to a number of factors for this, with mental and physical tiredness after a long season bound to play a part. Also, perhaps the hard physical work with which Cheika has tasked the squad in training may have dulled their skill levels. But with better possession coupled with a proportionate number of opportunities through bust tackles, their lack of clinical edge late on is, perhaps, unforgiveable.

Cheika must get his players working on their support play, as they have the personnel to create half-chances; those half-chances, at present, are not being taken. The silver lining for Wallabies fans lies in the astute nature of Cheika, whom, as Greg Growden has noted, is sure to have readied his players for a brutal pre-season to ensure are fit enough to play his physical brand of football beyond 80 minutes; we all saw what he achieved with a fully fit New South Wales Waratahs squad in 2014.

© Opta Stats for ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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