Player Ratings: Wounded but winning
OPINION: The Wallabies have opened their 2022 Rugby Championship account with a hard-fought 41-26 victory over Los Pumas in Mendoza on Saturday.
Dave Rennie’s men had to come from behind after an ill-disciplined and disjointed first half that was further compounded by a spirited Argentine outfit who came to play upfront physical rugby courtesy of their new Australian coach Michael Cheika.
The locals exposed the Australians’ early yet stand-in skipper James Slipper rallied his troops who lifted their intensity in the contact zones, adjusted their discipline and simply built a wave of momentum that the Argentinians couldn’t abate.
Nick Turnbull rates the Australian Players!
1. James Slipper – 7/10
Was dominant in the set piece and did his job as reliably as ever in the contact zones. What impressed was the way he stepped in for skipper Michael Hooper and lead the side to what in the end was a solid win for the Australians.
2. Folau Fainga’a – 7.5
One of his better test matches. Solid in the set piece and the lineout worked efficiently. He played with the aggression and intensity that was a message to the selectors that the injured Dave Porecki when fit simply won’t walk back into the starting side.
3. Allan Alaalatoa – 6
Didn’t have it his own way in the scrum and was penalised a couple of times for offences in that facet of play. This coupled with failing to plug a gap in the defensive line that allowed Pablo Matera to score didn’t bode well for him. However, he did, as always exhausted himself in general play.
4. Darcy Swain – 7
An intelligent performance. His time out after being suspended during the English series appears to have been time well spent. He didn’t get sucked into any niggle and did the little things well.
5. Matt Philip – 7
A bit of an anonymous performance which isn’t a bad thing. Means he was doing the grunt work required.
6. Jed Holloway – 7.5
A wonderful debut for him. Was solid in the lineout and desperately unlucky to be penalised after poaching a Pumas throw at the front. And furthermore, came desperately close to scoring after trailing on the inside after the Wallabies made a surge down the right flank. Looks more than comfortable at test level.
7. Fraser McReight – 8
An exhaustive defensive performance. In a match where the hosts appeared to be dominant in the breakdown he never ceased his efforts and as the match went on his influence also became apparent. Was also influential in attack down the short side and was rewarded with a try off a drive from the lineout.
8. Rob Valetini – 8
He was a handful for the Pumas and outplayed Pablo Matera. Numerous dominant carries coupled with a physical defensive performance ensured he was the player the locals didn’t want to run at, nor wanted running at them.
9. Nic White – 7.5
Bit of a shaky start after getting a kick charged down and also got himself into a bit of a verbal sparing match with referee Mike Adamson. For such an experienced player surely, he would understand there is only going to be one winner in that dual. He appeared to calm-his-farm and went on to manage his side around the park very well.
10. Quade Cooper – 7
Was playing well before he appeared to sustain a serious ankle injury whilst pressing the Pumas line. He was brave in defence and the way he held up the ball that allowed space for Jordan Petaia to exploit was vintage Cooper. It’s a shame as we may not see that again until 2023.
11. Marika Koroibete – 7.5
Came alive in the second half as the Wallabies found a way to get himself into the game. He was exceptionally good under the high ball and was a standout for lifting the intensity and tempo of play in the second half. Appeared to have scored a try but was correctly disallowed after a forward pass, after he came off his wing for an inside pass, so structurally his timing could have been better.
12. Hunter Paisami – 7
A valuable performance. His lines in attack ensured the Pumas were often guessing. One infraction was he dropped one clean on attack but outside of that his passing game was on as was his defence.
13. Len Ikitau – 7.5
Akin to his centre partner he was very good both sides of the ball. He went about his work quietly and efficiently and thoroughly deserved his late try.
14. Jordan Petaia – 7.5
He was dangerous all day down the right flank. His try coming off that flank to work off a deep sitting Quade Cooper was class. Relieved he
didn’t appear to pick up an injury and hope to see more of this during the Rugby Championship.
15. Tom Wright – 6.5
Solid without being spectacular. Didn’t really find a way to influence the game, but perhaps the shift to the 15 jumper didn’t assist. But certainly, didn’t let his side down today.
16. Lachlan Lonergan – 6.5
Liked his cameo towards the end. There doesn’t appear to much of him but he stuck in defence and nailed his basics.
17. Matt Gibbon – 6
Was solid on debut. More to come from him.
18. Taniela Tupou – 7
Brought the impact required. His line running was dominant and as expected his scrummaging gave the Wallabies an edge.
19. Nick Frost – 7
Thought he was going score when running a supporting line down the middle track as he is known to have a quick pair of heels but it wasn’t to be. Was very good in the lineout and industrious around the park. Brought the impact.
20. Rob Leota – N/A – on late.
21. Pete Samu – 6.5
Mr Consistent. Came on, brought his experience and calmness that helped the Wallabies seal the win.
22. Jake Gordon – N/A – on late.
23. Reece Hodge – 7
Came on for the injured Cooper and managed the role well. Contributed with a solid kicking game.