Player Ratings: The Houdini Act
OPINION: The Wallabies had a point to prove against Wales on Saturday, as they looked to avoid a four-match losing streak to end their season.
While it was far from easy, the Wallabies were able to do exactly that, as they completed an incredible comeback at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium to win 39-34.
Australia went down to 13 men early in the second half after Jake Gordon and Tom Robertson were sent to the sin bin. The hosts made the most of their two player advantage as they begun to pile on the points.
Spurred on by the passionate Welsh crowd, the home side led 34-13 53 after minutes – but the Wallabies showed the rugby world what they’re made of in the final 20.
The Wallabies scored 26 unanswered points to finish the Test, with replacement hooker Lachlan Lonergan crossing for the match-winning try with less than two minutes to go.
RugbyPass’ Finn Morton rated the Australian players:
15 Tom Wright – 7.5
Wright has played at a consistently high level for the Wallabies this year, arguably one of their best, and the 25-year-old was able to cap off an impressive season with another promising performance. The former NRL playmaker was given an opportunity to star in the No. 15 jersey against Wales, and he certainly held his own at fullback.
While he was relatively solid under the high ball, Wright showed once again how lethal he can be with the ball-in-hand. Wright ran for the most metres of any player on either team – 84m from 11 carries – and he also beat three defenders. But it wasn’t a perfect performance, with a brain-fade with six minutes to play nearly costing the men in gold.
14 Jordan Petaia – 5.5
It was an unusually quiet Test match from Jordan Petaia, who played just under an hour on the right wing for the Wallabies. Petaia only ran the ball four times and made the same number of tackles – but he was simply outclassed by his opposite Rio Dyer. One of his best involvements in the Test was a 40-metre clearance kick late in the first half from a tight angle.
13 Len Ikitau – 7
Ikitau is a world class centre, and the rugby world was reminded of exactly why that is in Cardiff. With no Hunter Paisami for this week’s Test – who was injured last weekend against Ireland – Ikitau had to stand up, and did the gold jersey justice. The 24-year-old made the equal-most tackles of any Australian player with 12, but he also had some crucial involvements in attack.
12 Reece Hodge – 6.5
Australia’s Mr Fix It made his return to the Wallabies’ starting XV against Wales, having been named at inside centre. Hodge kicked well when he had to, but made his mark on the defensive side of the ball – making 11 tackles without missing any. The utility back attempted a shot at goal early in the second half, but his attempt from beyond halfway struck the upright.
11 Mark Nawaqanitawase – 8.5
Nawaqanitawase hasn’t looked out of place at all since making his international debut a couple of weeks ago. Once again, the left winger was a work horse – and he looked more and more eager to get involved as the Test match went on. While he showcased his strength with the ball with some impressive runs during the opening 40, he made his name with a brilliant second-half double.
The up-and-coming winger showed how tough he is to stop one-on-one, and how little space he needs to make the most of an opportunity, as he scored a crucial try in the 58th minute. Nawaqanitawase crossed again 10 minutes later as he ran through the heart of the Welsh defence.
10 Ben Donaldson – 5
Was a tough first start in international rugby for Donaldson, who didn’t really have the chance to impress with Wales dominating the Australian forwards. The pivot was involved in a try-saving tackle on Dyer late in the first half though. Donaldson scored eight points on the night.
9 Jake Gordon – 5.5
Gordon certainly had some promising involvements during his time out on the field, but it seemed to remain consistent when Wales really took over. But the biggest mark against his performance was another yellow card – having been sent to the sin bin a couple of weeks ago against Italy.
1 James Slipper (captain) – 5
Was a tough night for the Wallabies captain, as Wales dominated the Australian forward pack for a large period of that Test. Slipper also only made five tackles and ran the ball once, as he struggled to make an impact.
2 Folau Fainga’a – 6
It was at times a tough night for Folau Fainga’a, even though he was able to make most of his throws into the lineout. The try-scoring machine added another five-pointer to his tally as well, as he reaped the rewards of Australia’s rampaging rolling maul. But Wales were dominant, especially in the second quarter of the match, and that made things tough.
3 Allan Alaalatoa – 5
Alaalatoa is a world class tighthead prop and his work rate was once again admirable, but Wales ultimately monstered the Wallabies which has to reflect in his rating. He was penalised for a scrum infringement just before half-time, which was the first in a series of penalties against the men in gold.
4 Nick Frost – 6.5
Nick Frost’s work rate as excellent once again, and he continued to embody the role as a general at the set piece for the men in gold. Frost also made nine tackles on the night, and ran the ball seven times.
5 Cadeyrn Neville – 5.5
Neville struggled to make his mark against Wales, before he was substituted for Ned Hanigan early in the second half. While the second rower certainly had a presence about him at the lineout, he couldn’t really make an impact on the Test – especially with how Wales were for so long.
6 Jed Holloway – 5.5
Another player who had an unusually quiet Test. Holloway only made five tackles, and ran for just eight metres. The flanker did come close to scoring Australia’s first try of the match though, but was dragged into tough a few metres short of the line.
7 Fraser McReight – 7
It was another impressive from Fraser McReight in the coveted No. 7 jersey for the Wallabies. Especially as the game went on, McReight reaped the rewards of his tireless work rate. The star flanker made the equal-most tackles of any Wallabies player, and he also ran for 23 metres. Great linkup play as well in the lead-up to Nawaqanitawase’s second try.
8 Langi Gleeson – 6.5
Gleeson was given his first chance to start a Test match in Wallaby gold, and he certainly announced himself with a monstrous tackle early on. Just five minutes into the Test, Welsh fullback Josh Adams reeled in a Jake Gordon clearance kick – but he was met by Gleeson who timed his tackle perfectly.
While Australia struggled for a period during the opening 40 minutes, Gleeson still did what he could to make an impact on the Test. He made an impressive 11 tackles, and also ran the ball for 17 metres.
16 Lachlan Lonergan – 7.5 – Lonergan was the match winner for the Wallabies. Not only did he score the go-ahead try with less than two minutes to run on the clock, but the hooker also stole the ball at the breakdown and kicked it into touch to draw an end to a thrilling contest. A great performance from Lonergan off the bench.
17 Tom Robertson – 5.5 – Robertson came on early for Slipper, who went off for 10 minutes for a HIA, and was penalised a few minutes after coming on. Later in the Test, he was yellow carded after the Wallabies conceded their fifth scrum penalty of the match.
18 Sam Talakai – N/A – Made his international debut off the bench with less than 10 minutes to run on the clock.
19 Ned Hanigan – N/A – Had some positive involvements when he came on.
20 Pete Samu – 7.5 – The Wallabies needed a miracle from their bench really to win that match, and that’s exactly what they got from players including Samu. The flanker was one of Australia’s best on the night, as he played a key role in the unlikely resurgence.
21 Tate McDermott – 7 – Against a tiring Welsh defence, McDermott was one of the difference markers in Cardiff. McDermott was sniping around the breakdown and that was causing the Welsh defence some headaches.
22 Noah Lolesio – 7 – A brilliant playmaking cameo off the bench from the up-and-coming flyhalf, who staked his claim once again for that No. 10 jersey going into a World Cup year.
23 Jock Campbell – N/A
By Finn Morton, @RugbyPass