Player Ratings: Two steps back
OPINION: The Wallabies came agonisingly close to securing a series-clinching victory against the French at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne, however were narrowly defeated 26-28 in an enthralling encounter.
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie would not have been enthused by his side’s inability to start well, as again they found themselves chasing the game, only taking the lead at 26-25 in the 75th minute.
The French capitalised on a scrum penalty just two minutes later, taking the three points and ensuring a memorable 28-26 victory, their first over the Wallabies on Australian soil since 1990.
Nick Turnbull rates the Wallabies players
1. James Slipper – 7/10
The veteran Wallaby prop had the ascendency in the set piece and was fearless when defending the line. Yet despite his bravery in that facet of play, was prone to falling off the odd tackle. Still a very positive performance.
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – 6.5
Really worked himself hard in defence, yet a misread off a Jake Gordon box kick opened the door for the French to attack whilst deep in Australian territory – Les Bleus eventually coming away with yet another 3 points. His set piece was essentially sound despite a poor lineout when the Wallabies were well on the offensive.
3. Taniela Tupou – 7.5
Was, as expected, a handful for the French in the set piece and with ball-in-hand, yet what impressed most was his footwork late before contact, allowing himself to maximise his impact in attack. Furthermore, his vision to send a cut out pass to Gordon for the halfback’s try was one for the ages.
4. Matt Philip – 6.5
A far better performance this week than last. Caused the French some issues in the lineout and generally worked himself hard around the park, yet appears to be lacking in the physicality he showed in 2020. Will need to find that if Australia are going to defeat France on Saturday.
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – 7
Worked tirelessly in defence, yet his ball security into contact at times was questionable. What impressed was he didn’t go missing when the physicality got turned up in the second half.
6. Rob Valetini – 7.5
Defensive weapon for the Wallabies. When he hits, he rarely misses and the tackled player stays hit. Was strong in his carries and overall had a very credible test.
7. Michael Hooper (captain) – 8
The Wallabies best forward on the park, if not the player. His work at the ruck on several occasions relived pressure for his side. A memorable covering tackle on Baptiste Couilloud most certainly thwarted a French scoring opportunity several phases later. This, coupled with his own try late in the match, illustrated what a complete player he is.
8. Harry Wilson – 7.5
He played ‘Big’ against a large French pack and never took a backwards step. In the second half looked to hit the space more often and caused the French some issues there, however his defence was epic, repelling a number of French raids on the Australian line.
9. Jake Gordon – 7
A much better performance this week. He threatened from the base several times; however, his passing game was not as always as accurate as the side needed. Furthermore, the French employed a number of ‘slow-down’ tactics around the base of the Australian ruck that Gordon should have highlighted to the referee.
10. Noah Lolesio – 7
A solid performance by Lolesio – in him, the Wallabies appear to have found a consistent goal kicker. He varied up the attack when the French were pressing hard on the outside, however, he needs to look to get more second touches in attack as he appears quite dangerous with ball in hand. There were opportunities for that to occur, yet he appeared more concerned about being in the right position for the next phase.
11. Marika Koroibete – 8
The best Wallaby back and certainly vying for best player honours with skipper Hooper. He threatened every time he had the ball, be it out wide, or looking for work in tight., He was courageous taking the high ball and ran at the French with great gusto. Felt for him as he appeared to have scored a brilliant try early on that was rightfully disallowed after a Tom Wright knock-on in the lead-up.
12. Matt To’omua – 6.5
Had a fair crack and had the very hard task of aiming up against a staunch French midfield. Made a few basic errors but was the experienced midfield advisor the Wallabies required to ensure the lesser experienced Lolesio and Paisami had some experience around them.
13. Hunter Paisami – 7
Strong as ever into contact, and looked to also exploit the gaps as opposed to simply seeking direct contact. His ball security was still an issue at times, but despite this, he did cause the French some concern both in the inside and wider channels. A fair effort.
14. Tom Wright – 5.5
A talented player who appears down on confidence. His option-taking in possession wasn’t always the soundest and he appears to let the ball control him, rather than controlling the ball himself. The best advice is to simply be more decisive, as his indecision at times is proving costly.
15. Tom Banks – 6
Had some moments of attacking brilliance, yet also had a few questionable moments to balance that out. Hasn’t yet put in a performance to cement himself as the Wallabies No 15.
16. Lachlan Lonergan – 5.5
His inexperience appeared to cost the Wallabies an attacking opportunity when he went solo down the short side on an attacking maul and was quickly isolated, costing the Wallabies valuable momentum.
17. Angus Bell – 6
Had some quality involvements but will come under criticism for the scrum penalty in the 78th minute that allowed the French to take the lead. However, he has a case that the French were pushing before the ball was put in, but thems-the-breaks.
18. Allan Alaalatoa – 7.5
Superb impact. Really looked to impose himself on the match, particularly in defence when he put in some serious shots on some of the French forwards.
19. Darcy Swain – 6.5
Came on and looked to impose himself as required.
20. Isi Naisarani – 6
Had some quality touches but his accuracy at the breakdown appears to be an issue that isn’t yet resolved. Certainly wasn’t a passenger.
21. Tate McDermott – 6.5
Looked busy and was trying feverishly to get his side back in the match. Will probably get an opportunity to start next week and stake his claim as Australia’s first-choice scrumhalf.
22. Len Ikitau – 6.5
Came on for his debut and had some quality touches out wide. Certainly appears to have the makings of a test player.
23. Andrew Kellaway – 6.5
Came on for Wright and appeared comfortable with test match rugby. His support play and offload ensured Hooper’s try. I suspect he will get a start this weekend in the decider.