The opening game of the Autumn International series at Twickenham was built up to by a host of drama, so it only seemed fitting that more of the same would follow on the field.
In the end the Wallabies held on for a 40-36 win in a try that came with 11 tries, six to the men in gold and five to the invitational side of up and comers, journeymen and guests including Japan-based Nick Cummins.
Cummins was the toast of the match, a cracking character who took the bold choice to ditch the ARU set-up for a move to Japan which will better help him look after family members.
No one got a bigger cheer at Twickenham when he crossed for a try than the man known as the Honey Badger.
The surge from the Barbarians came too late though, and probably flattered the composite side against an international line-up that was trying out a new pattern of play under the coach who stepped in when Ewen McKenzie quit.
Quade Cooper and Will Genia were reunited in the playmaker roles as 10 changes were made to the side that almost beat the All Blacks in the third Bledisloe Cup match.
Sam Carter, Benn Robinson, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley and Sean McMahon crossed for the Aussies’ six tries – five of them converted – as the Wallabies took a 40-22 lead with six minutes to go.
But they switched off and tries came from Cummins and Marnitz Boshoff, who converted them both.
But they held on and now have far stiffer competition waiting in Wales, France, Ireland and finally England back at the same venue.
Cheika was neither delighted or devastated by his side’s performance.
“In attack and defence we had some good moments and some poor moments, which is exactly what I imagined would happen. All in all it wasn’t a bad hit out for us,” he said.
“After half-time we kicked on and got away from them. Then I think maybe [there was] a bit of fatigue – we’ve had big training week, and the travel and everything probably kicked in.”
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