Brisbane’s Bledisloe Cup clash was a great finale to a fascinating, gruelling series. And while Wallabies across the park had sensational performances in Saturday’s victory, that doesn’t quite erase the struggles many Australian players have undergone over the last five weeks.
Here’s how we rated all of the Wallabies for their overall performances throughout the four-game Bledisloe Cup campaign.
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MATCH CENTRE: Wallabies vs All Blacks, game IV
BRISBANE STARTERS (1-15):
1. James Slipper: 6.5
Slipper has always been a quiet achiever for the Wallabies. But at times this series he’s been a too-quiet underachiever – like in Game III, where he didn’t run the ball once.
His defensive work was very solid throughout the four-game series, including a number of rough tackles. Started in every game, earning him 100 caps – just the 13th Wallaby to the milestone.
The smile on his face as he ran onto the Suncorp Stadium pitch to rapturous applause was a special moment. If only he left the field smiling, and not grimacing as he held his injured elbow.
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa: 6.5
Missed the opener, and was brought in for Game 2 to address the woeful lineout. He rewarded that selection immediately – his work at set pieces, his defence, and his workrate was second-to-none.
3. Allan Alaalatoa: 5.5
Came off the bench in the opening two games and was solid but unspectacular, before starting in the latter two games. He simply doesn’t have the same sort of go-forward or impact as the rampaging Taniela Tupou who he replaced in the starting XV. Then again, not many do. But he was reliable in defence and kept mistakes to a minimum.
4. Rob Simmons: 5
Coming off the bench in the first three matches his performances were underwhelming. Starting in the final match was a big opportunity, but he couldn’t grab it with both hands. He worked hard and he deserves some credit for his work at the set pieces.
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5. Matt Philip: 6
Performed very well in the series opener, an impressive debut highlighted by his hefty impact with the ball in hand. Things went downhill from there. He was very solid in defence in the second match but couldn’t do the same damage with his running game. The third game was very disappointing, including giving away a very poor ruck penalty at a crucial moment. But his fourth game was a great rebound to form, showing plenty of guts, and his technique on the clean-out was excellent.
His lineout work was strong throughout the series – including that crucial lineout steal on the stroke of halftime in Brisbane.
6. Lachie Swinton: 6
Took the first tackle of the game for the Aussies, and his early defence was absolutely fantastic. When was the last time we saw a big man in the green and gold putting shots on with such regularity? But it all unravelled after 34 minutes when he dropped the shoulder and saw red.
His disappointment was plain for all to see. He’ll learn from it.
7. Michael Hooper (C): 6.5
Do you rate a captain on his own performance, or how well his team played?
Individually, Hooper was up there with the Wallabies’ best – as he has been so often, and for so long – but this has been a series he’ll want to forget. His name is now etched into the record books as the captain who led the Wallabies to their worst-ever loss to the All Blacks. But then again, his captaincy in Brisbane was brilliant, and his leadership at the huddle was clear to see.
Hooper’s peerless pilfering didn’t show up at its usual rate, but the All Blacks deserve plenty of credit in that department. He made a mountain of tackles in the series and ran hard like always.
8. Harry Wilson: 7
A very, very promising campaign. His defensive work was outstanding, laying on a bunch of monster hits. Showed plenty of energy even when things weren’t going his way. A few handling errors he’ll like to cut down on.
9. Nic White: 7
Arguably the best Aussie in the opener where his running game was superb. He couldn’t quite have the same impact throughout the series, but still did a lot right. White popped up everywhere in attack and defence. His kicking game seemed to disappear from the game plan at times, but certainly re-emerged in the finale and had a huge role in the victory. He’ll hold his head high.
10. Reece Hodge: 6.5
His communication was immense in the fourth game. The missed penalty – which could have won the opener – could have ruined his confidence, but it didn’t.
Started the fourth match – just his second at the 10 – with plenty of vigour. Tackled consistently well, ran the offence well and marshalled the defence effectively. He’s such a versatile player, but fly half might just really be his best position.
11. Marika Koroibete: 8
Was inspirational in the opener, poor in the second game, the Wallabies’ best in the third, and played like the Energiser bunny in an incredible individual effort in Brisbane.
Showed great work on defence – how about that try-saver on Ardie Savea in Sydney – but wasn’t always at his barnstorming best. He came out fired up in the finale and was right back to the elite level; despite copping a sin binning, he was the best player on the park. He was a monster defensively, making bone-crunching hit after hit, and did damage to the NZ defence with his powerful runs.
All up, we give him our tick as the Aussies’ finest in a tough series.
12. Hunter Paisami: 6.5
Had a fantastic debut in the opener, making himself known on defence and was almost unstoppable on attack. But things immediately turned sour in the second clash, as he tackled very poorly and gave away three turnovers. Off the bench in the third, he gifted the All Blacks a try with a poor pass.
Really improved in Brisbane, repaying Rennie’s faith in returning him to the 12 jersey. His decision-making in defence was much-improved, making the right decisions between big hits and safe tackling.
13. Jordan Petaia: 6.5
He’s undoubtedly incredibly gifted, but his lack of maturity was exploited by the All Blacks at times this series. It looked as though he was trying too hard to make magic happen whenever he got the pill. Did very well in the fourth game, especially defensively.
14. Tom Wright: 8
Could his debut in Brisbane have gone any better than a try after two minutes?
Looked sharp in defence, reading a dangerous grubber kick well and did a half-decent job kicking off his bad foot in one particularly desperate moment.
Copped a whopper of a hit to the chin but bounced straight back up. Confident from the outset, playing with spark and instinct. Looks certain to keep his starting spot after that performance.
15. Tom Banks: 5.5
Banks was fine under the high ball, and decent on defence. But he just didn’t have enough of an impact offensively – especially when you consider how effective his opposing number was.
Was dropped for the third game partially due to his lack of communication, and clearly improved in that area in the finale when he was brought back to the starting role.
His desire to inject himself in the offence more showed just two minutes into the series finale when he teed up the opening try.
Folau Fainga’a: 4.5
His lineouts were poor in Wellington (and the rest of his play didn’t make up for that in any large amount) leading to him being dropped completely for the next two. His pass from close range to give Tupou his try in Brisbane was stellar.
Angus Bell: 7
Bell is the youngest Wallaby prop since 1928, and the 20-year-old showed plenty of fire and ability off the bench in Brisbane. He demolished the NZ scrum to earn a penalty for Hodge to narrow the gap to 15-14. Takes plenty of stopping with the ball in hand, too.
Taniela Tupou: 6.5
We all know what the ‘Tongan Thor’ can do. He’s a wrecking ball on the run, and he’s a weapon at the scrum and close to the line. And when he charges out of the defensive line, watch out.
Tupou changed the game in the fourth when he emerged off the bench and dug into the scrum like he was desperate to push the Kiwis right back to Eden Park. Then he started the winning move with a pair of huge runs, and finished the play with a barging try from close range – just his third five-pointer in the green and gold. It’s up to Rennie to get that sort of matchwinning performance out of the big man with regularity.
Ned Hanigan: 5
The tough veteran missed the first game but was very good in the second. Struggled in the third, but had his best showing off the pine in Brisbane. Great hands in the lineout, was always willing to take the hit-up.
Liam Wright: 5
Made a handful of ball-handling errors, but was otherwise quite solid in his two limited bench appearances.
Tate McDermott: 5.5
Promising signs. Looked calm under pressure, and always wanted to be involved. His sniping off the bench in the fourth was delightful. He has a bright future.
Noah Lolesio: 5
Really struggled on debut in Sydney, the weight of expectations and the burden of the green and gold leaving him overwhelmed. His kicking was poor, as was his decision-making. But he looked as if he’d got the nervousness out of his system by the time they hit Sydney. His bench performance was elite.
Filipo Daugunu: 6
Was dazzling in Wellington on debut, which forced the Kiwis to sit up and take notice. They responded by shutting him down offensively in the next two games. Then there was that bold decision to trash talk Caleb Clarke ahead of Bledisloe III, which ended with the Aussie sin-binned after just ten minutes. Bumped to the bench for the finale. His tackling was hit-and-miss throughout the series, but he always ran hard.
Matt To’omua: 6.5
Showed how valuable he is to the Wallabies line-up, particularly once he went down injured. That changed the flow of the second game – with the Wallabies losing their structure and their defensive organisation. His decision-making in the opener wasn’t perfect, notably a couple of very poor kicks which favoured the All Black backline.
James O’Connor: 5.5
He’s not the same man he was seven years ago, when he last started for the Wallabies at fly half, and the Aussies are all the better for it. Showed plenty of maturity and leadership, even when he was injured. Like in Brisbane, where he spent minutes talking to the substitute playmakers before they went on to the field. Wasn’t great defensively, and his kicking was sub-par.
Scott Sio: 4.5
Didn’t have much an impact off the bench in each of the first three games, but put in a fair shift each time. Made a couple of sloppy defensive efforts.
Fraser McReight: 5
Showed plenty of energy but 13 minutes wasn’t enough to showcase his ability.
Jake Gordon: 5
Kicked well but was otherwise quiet in two bench appearances.
Rob Valetini: 4
Made one disappointing bench appearance where he dropped a sitter and didn’t do much else.
Jordan Uelese: 5
His lineout work was up-and-down. His defensive workrate was faultless, but his scrum work has room to grow.