Wallabies lambasted after Argentina defeat

Wallabies' Israel Folau and Los Pumas' Horacio Agulla during the Rugby Championship 2014 match in Mendoza on October 04 2014. (Andres Larrovere, AFP)

Wallabies' Israel Folau and Los Pumas' Horacio Agulla during the Rugby Championship 2014 match in Mendoza on October 04 2014. (Andres Larrovere, AFP)

Pressure is building on coach Ewen McKenzie after the Wallabies’ loss to Argentina on Saturday was described as ill-disciplined and dispirited by Australia’s media.

The Pumas defeated Australia 21-17 after trailing 14-0 to claim their first Rugby Championship win in Mendoza on Saturday. The Wallabies’ performance was panned by the critics, with one calling it an “absolute shambles”.

“A rudderless and distracted Wallabies outfit got what they deserved by suffering the embarrassment of being Argentina’s first victim in the Rugby Championship,” veteran rugby correspondent Greg Growden wrote on ESPN Scrum website. “The Wallabies easily won the mistake-error count.
The Pumas won the up-front battle, mincing the Australian scrum at times, and so were able to dominate possession and territory.

“A better side – New Zealand, South Africa, England even – would have put the Wallabies away by at least 20 points.”

Coach’s position under question
Growden said McKenzie’s position as coach is under serious question after the team suffered one of its most inexplicable losses of recent times. “McKenzie has to accept much of the blame for the Mendoza fiasco. His Rugby Championship record is underwhelming.”

“McKenzie’s Test success record (52%) from 11 wins in 21 Tests is the lowest of any Australian coach in the professional era, ranking below Robbie Deans (58%), John Connolly (64%), Eddie Jones (57%), Rod Macqueen (79%) and Greg Smith (63%).”

The Sydney Morning Herald said McKenzie needed to fix the Wallabies’ problems soon or “things could get ugly”.

“The honeymoon ended some time ago for McKenzie, whose ‘approval rating’ will be forever amplified or decimated by the unbridled optimism his appointment triggered,” the Herald said.

“If Australian rugby’s self-titled ‘fixer’ can’t fix this one, soon, things could get ugly. In less than a week the Wallabies must dust themselves off and put a horror tour behind them.” The Wallabies face the All Blacks in Brisbane on October 18.

The Australian newspaper said the Wallabies looked “mixed-up and misfiring”.

“Having brilliantly worked their way into the game at the outset, they then bone-headedly worked their way out of it at the end,” it said. “Argentina’s scrum monstered the Wallabies’ set piece. It was the worst beating the Australian forwards have received this year.”

All Blacks’ loss a ‘minor blip’
Meanwhile, New Zealand media dismissed the All Blacks’ loss to South Africa as a “minor blip”, which simply confirmed the Springboks will be their major threat at next year’s World Cup.

In contrast to the soul-searching that normally follows a rare All Blacks defeat, pundits conceded the New Zealanders lost to the better team on the night in a 27-25 thriller, praising the Boks’ adventurous play.

New Zealand Herald rugby writer Kris Shannon said South Africa “took on the All Blacks at their own game and won” to end a world record 22-match unbeaten run in front of an ecstatic Johannesburg crowd. “Their normally conservative nature was eschewed in favour of free-flowing attack that came from all over the park,” he wrote.

“And it’s frightening to think what [rookie Springbok fly-half] Handre Pollard can accomplish with a little more experience under his belt.”

Veteran commentator Keith Quinn said the loss showed the All Blacks there was no room for complacency as they prepare to defend the world title they won in 2011. “No one can go on winning all the time, so this was inevitable,” he told Radio New Zealand. “I see already that people are saying it’s not a bad thing to happen this far out from the Rugby World Cup.”

Former All Black Justin Marshall was similarly philosophical about the end of an unbeaten run that stretches back almost two years, saying the All Blacks had a chance to bounce back against Australia on October 18.

“Sure if they go on to lose at Brisbane in the ‘dead’ Bledisloe Cup rubber, there might be genuine cause for concern, but at the moment Ellis Park can stand as a minor blip in a fairly comprehensive campaign,” he wrote in the NZ Herald.

“The unbeaten run was going to end at some stage and it might as well end with nothing on the line.”

NZ, SA above the rest
Dominion Post rugby writer Liam Napier said the pulsating Test underscored how much better New Zealand and South Africa were than the rest of the world at the moment.

He said the result, which ended a string of five consecutive losses against New Zealand for the Springboks, gave the South Africans an important psychological boost ahead of the World Cup.

“It’s not so much the end of their 22-Test unbeaten run that hurt the All Blacks but the realisation the win has given added confidence to the biggest threat in their defence of the Webb Ellis Cup,” he said. – AFP

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