Player Ratings: A nightmare in Florence
OPINION: Another week, another heartbreaking loss for the Wallabies, who were beaten by Italy for the first time ever in Florence on Saturday.
Just a week on from their one-point loss to World No. 2 France in Paris, international debutant Ben Donaldson missed a conversion after the siren as Australia lost 28-27.
The Wallabies had won all of their previous 18 Test matches against Italy, dating back to their first meeting in 1983.
Tries to forwards Tom Robertson and Cadeyrn Neville within the last 12 minutes gave the men in a gold a chance to avoid some unwanted history, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Dave Rennie had made many changes to the side that played at Stade de France last week, which gave some other players the opportunity to shine a year out from the Rugby World Cup – but were they good enough to make the most of it?
Finn Morton rates the Wallabies players.
15. Jock Campbell – 5.5
Playing in just his third Test, fullback Jock Campbell showed glimpses of promise without really being able to make his mark on the match. While the 27-year-old was reliable under the high ball and kicked relatively well when called upon, he did appear to go missing for periods of the Test. Campbell did finish with the second-most runs of any Australian player, but on the defensive side of the ball missed three tackles and made just one.
14. Mark Nawaqanitawase – 7
While wingers are usually defined and graded on their ability to score tries – which is ultimately their main job – Nawaqanitawase was able to standout without registering his first points in international rugby. The 22-year-old from Sydney worked tirelessly around the field, and made some impressive runs with the ball on the back of this effort. Defensively as well he was sound, as the debutant made the most tackles out of any Australian back with five. While Nawaqanitawase had a quiet second half, it was a promising debut for the up-and-coming talent.
13. Len Ikitau – 5.5
It was an unusually quiet Test from star outside centre Len Ikitau, who made just four tackles and ran the ball for 18 metres. Ikitau had a moment to forget in the 35th-mintue when he kicked the ball dead from about halfway.
12. Hunter Paisami – 6
Paisami wasn’t given the chance to run with the ball in space and wreak havoc on defenders in the process, but he still did what he had to do with making any highlight plays. Without doing anything particularly outstanding, Paisami held his own in defence and carried well for hard-earned metres when given the chance.
11. Tom Wright – 7
Winger Tom Wright was arguably Australia’s best performing back, but his Test got off to an unwanted start with an error off the opening kick-off. But he made up for that knock-on about half an hour later,when he showcased his elite athleticism to score a try in the corner.
Flyhalf Noah Lolesio sent the winger over for Australia’s opening try with a brilliant cut-out pass. Wright was able to dot the ball down with two Italian defenders attempting to disrupt his lunge for the try-line. The 25-year-old also ran for the most metres of any player from either team – 80 metres off eight carries.
10. Noah Lolesio – 6.5
Lolesio is a talent, we know that, but he seemed to struggle to lead the Wallabies attack at times. That being said, he did showcase his brilliance with a sublime try assist in the 31st-minute for winger Tom Wright – throwing a tidy cut-out pass to beat multiple Italian defenders. The flyhalf finished the Test with seven points to his name, but did miss some kicks at goal.
9. Jake Gordon – 5
Gordon was given his chance to shine in the starting No. 9 jersey for the Wallabies this week, but he failed to really made the most of this opportunity. While he kicked well and helped steer the Wallabies attack around the park when he needed to, Gordon didn’t really break the game open at an stage. It didn’t help that he was sent to the in the Test for a late tackle – with Italy scoring two tries while he was off the field.
1. Matt Gibbon – 6
The Australian scrum was quite solid during the first half and Gibbon deserves some praise and plaudits for that. Otherwise, he attempted to make an impact an attack and defence.
2. Folau Fainga’a – 6.5
The Wallabies won most of their own ball when Fainga’a was throwing into the lineout, but a missed throw in a crucial stage of the Test may have the cost the Wallabies. Australia were down by five-points when they had an attacking lineout five-metres out from the Italian try-line, but Fainga’a missed his target and the Italians capitalised on the overthrow. But with seven tackles to his name, you can’t fault his work rate around the park.
3. Allan Alaalatoa (c) – 7
A promising captain’s knock from Australia’s 85th Wallabies captain, who led by example while he was on the field. Not only did Alaalatoa scrum well, but he made an impact around the field. About a minute into the second half the captain had two carries in three phases, before supporting Pete Samu at the breakdown another two phases later. Alaalatoa made seven tackles and ran the ball five times.
4. Darcy Swain – 7
After initially being named on the bench, Swain was a late change to the starting side after Nick Frost was ruled out – but didn’t he make the most of his chance? Swain was a general at the lineout for the Wallabies, calling the shots but also backing this up as the go-to player for Folau Fainga’a. Swain forced an error late in the Test when the Wallabies needed it, which ultimately led to Tom Robertson’s try. The 25-year-old made eight tackles against Italy which was the second most out of any Wallabies player.
5. Will Skelton – 7.5
Skelton was clearly Australia’s best player against Italy, as he made his return to the Wallabies’ starting side. The powerful lock was a destructive force to be reckoned with every time he got the ball in his hands – as he created more than a couple of problems for the Italian defence. Skelton’s 10 carries were the most of any player, and he also made five tackles.
6. Ned Hanigan – 5.5
It was a relatively quiet performance from Hanigan, but he stood up when his team needed him. Some great link-up play saw him set up Robertson for a try late on the Test.
7. Fraser McReight – 7
You can’t fault McReight’s effort around the park – he was always in or around the breakdown, looking to make an impact wherever he could. The flanker crossed for a try just after half-time, as he dove over for a crucial score, which was his fourth try in the international arena. McReight made the most tackles of any Australian player with 10, but impressively he didn’t miss any.
8. Pete Samu – 6
Samu wasn’t given the chance to run in space, and otherwise struggled to really standout during the loss to Italy. He made seven tackles during the match, missing two, and had just four runs.
Lachlan Lonergan – 5.5 – The Wallabies had an attacking lineout inside the 22 mid-way through the first half after Lonergan had just come on. Unfortunately for him, his throw was called not straight.
Tom Robertson – 5.5 – A mixed performance from Robertson towards the end of the Test as he was penalised late. But he made up for his mistake shortly after he crossed for a potentially decisive try.
Taniela Tupou – 5.5 – Tupou had some strong carries but the Italian scrum was well in control in the final quarter of the match.
Cadeyrn Neville – 5 – This might be a tough rating for the try-scorer, but he was penalised multiple times inside the final 10 minutes with the scores close.
Langi Gleeson – N/A
Tate McDermott – 6 – Was impressive when he came on, but didn’t have many chances to shine or make a significant impact.
Ben Donaldson – N/A – The debutant missed a conversion after the siren which would’ve won Australia the Test.
Jordan Petaia – N/A
By Finn Morton, @RugbyPass