The prospect of an Australia, All Black final has appeared on the horizon after Aussie coach Michael Cheika orchestrated a fine victory over the ‘master’ Warren Gatland’s Wales at Twickenham.
A full house at the home of English rugby ensured the atmosphere for this game was electric even with the hosts not in town. The roar as the teams came on the field was as loud as it has ever been at ‘The Cabbage Patch”.
With both teams already knowing they had qualified for the quarter finals, the focus was on winning the game to swerve round the tricky side of the draw and avoid a quarter final against South Africa followed by a potential semi final against the All Blacks. A tight game was always on the cards.
Wales started strongly, almost scoring in the first few minutes. The game then settled into a forward dominated battle with plenty of well contested scrums, rucks and mauls. Both teams conceded penalties at the breakdown but it was the Wallabies that eventually went in 9-6 ahead at half time.
The second half began in the same fashion as the first, with the intensity of the game rising all the time with only Australia able to add three points from the boot of Bernard Foley.
But with Wales in the ascendancy and the Australia defence being pressed hard, Will Genia was the first of two players to head to the sin bin for a string of penalties conceded at the breakdown. Dean Mumm soon joined him forcing Australia to play for 8 minutes with 13 men.
In a period of play that was truly amazing, the Aussie defence somehow managed to play out this time without conceding a single point. Every single player made an important tackle or forced a turnover. Captain Stephen Moore said in his post match interview, “It was just a case of getting up and making another tackle, simple as that really.”
Coach Cheika had previously called his opposite number Gatland the Master and at his press conference he said of Wales, “They are a good team and well coached. They bring something that we hadn’t seen in the choke tackle. They had a few tricks up their sleeve, moving us up the middle, they have got players that play with a lot of passion and will to win.”
He added, “It was pretty tight. It was a different type of game for us so we just had to show a different skin. There were plenty of imperfections and that’s something we have to sort if we want to get to the final.”
So the Aussies now progress to the seemingly easier side of the draw and will play Scotland in the quarter finals. Australia’s recent record has not been great against the Scots and they have lost their last two meetings. However, based on the performances of both teams so far the Australians are looking good to make the semi finals and possibly even the final.
Cheika remained cautious at the prospect of a quarter final against the Scots.
“We haven’t had a good look, to be honest. What I do know is that Vern Cotter is a very clever coach. He had a very successful time in France, which is difficult for an Anglo-Saxon and I’m sure he will have them ready for the knockout games,” he said.
Australia will go into the quarter final as favourites, some are suggesting they are now favourites for the tournament after coming through the ‘group of death’ with a 100% win record.