AUSTRALIA v WALES. KO 11.O5pm, SECOND TEST – Wales must learn from mistakes
IT was a case of déjà vu all over again last weekend as Wales lost yet another glorious opportunity of taking a southern hemisphere scalp.
Although they weren’t favourites to beat the Wallabies in the first Test, the Grand Slam champions were still fancied by many to topple Australia.
But the Aussies, without stars like Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Quade Cooper and James Horwill, were still far too good for a poor Wales.
That high quality quartet are still absent for today’s second Test in Melbourne which Wales could well win despite their serious shortcomings last week.
The encouraging thing from that 27-19 defeat was that, although they were completely outplayed by the Wallabies, they came within an ace of beating them.
Had it not been for Sam Warburton’s woeful pass to the below par Rhys Priestland when they had Australia on the rack, they would have recorded only their second win over the Wallabies in their own backyard since their solitary victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground 43 years ago.
But, as so often happens, the chance was bombed and Wales had to make do with being the nearly men again as the clinical Australians showed them the way to the try line.
The Wallabies certainly do not suffer the white line fever Wales do when it comes to putting serious opposition to bed.
I’d never seen Warburton have a poor game before last Saturday as the Wallabies destroyed Wales at the breakdown.
In the age of sublime sevens, Australia’s openside and captain David Pocock gave Richie McCaw a run for his money as the king of the contact area.
There were a number of poor performances that would only merit a four out of ten mark by a number of Wales players who are usually so much better.
As well as the Wales skipper, Priestland, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Scott Williams and Toby Faletau all had shockers.
Wales’ record over the Tri Nations sides since their solitary victory over South Africa in 1999 reads as a toe-curling played 55, won three, drawn one, lost 51.
Even Scotland, no disrespect to them but they’ve hardly set the world alight in that same period, have a better record against the southern hemisphere elite.
It’s fairly obvious what Wales have to do today. It is of course easier said than done, but they have to keep Pocock quiet so that they can stem the flow of quality possession to Australia’s gifted scrum half Will Genia who has been their nemesis on more than once occasion.
Last weekend he devastated Wales, completely outplaying Mike Phillips, who frequently goes from hero to zero and then back again.
Wales’ kicking game was also a shambles.
Their tactic, if you can call it anything resembling a strategy, at one stage was to send up booming up and unders and pray a lucky bounce would yield a try-scoring opportunity.
The sad thing in a way was, it nearly worked. Wales aren’t a poor side and showed during their Grand Slam triumph that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Should they gain at least parity at the contact area, play a sound tactical and kicking game and shore up last weekend’s leaky defence, they can well record an historic win and keep the three-match series alive.
There’s no way they can be as bad as last week. But with Wales’ sorry track record, I still wouldn’t bet on a win.