Deans patience tested by Australian comeback kids
If you believe some sections of the Australian media, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was within 24 minutes of losing his job during the Rugby Championship test against Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Trailing 19-6 to the southern hemisphere championship newcomers, Australia rallied with two tries and a penalty in the last 20 minutes to win 23-19, but it was by no means a convincing victory.
Deans spoke afterwards about how the win should not be underestimated given how strong the Pumas have been in the Rugby Championship, particularly drawing with South Africa and holding their own against the All Blacks for an hour.
There is no doubt Argentina have been more competitive than many expected in the championship and the Australians have shown great character to battle back two weeks in a row after their win over South Africa in Perth.
But all too often it has been mistakes that have first blunted the Wallabies’ attacking endeavours and then allowed the opposition to score and take the lead in the first place.
Against the Springboks, Deans railed against the “silly” grubber kicks his backs had employed in strong attacking positions, and on Saturday his first reaction to the match at pitchside was again frustration.
“Good composure from a young group but we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” he said. “The two tries that we let in were both totally unnecessary.”
The two Argentina tries inside two minutes both came from Wallabies kicks, the first when Quade Cooper’s clearance was charged down by Tomas Leonardi and the second from Julio Faras Cabello after a counter-attack from a Berrick Barnes kick.
Deans conceded that the coaching staff had considered withdrawing Cooper, who is still striving to find his touch after returning from knee surgery, but an injury to winger Dom Shipperley forced a rethink.
Shipperley suffered a nasty-looking dislocated finger but should join the squad when they depart for South Africa this week after good performances in his first two tests.
The Queensland flyer has been one of several inexperienced players who have grabbed their chances this season as injuries have severely affected the Australia squad.
Lock Kane Douglas became another on Saturday when he more than held his own in a physical contest against the Argentines on his test debut in a position where Australia have always suffered from a lack of depth.
The victory put Australia second in the championship behind runaway leaders New Zealanders but ahead of South Africa, who they meet in their penultimate match of the campaign in Pretoria.
“This group is really going to enjoy travelling now,” Deans added. “Going to Pretoria is a fantastic opportunity for us to move on and play some good, positive rugby.
Douglas’s second row partner, and Australia’s fourth skipper of the season, Nathan Sharpe, said it might be an idea not to leave it to a late comeback for once.
“Really tough, but we’re looking forward to that,” he said.
“We have done it a couple of tough weeks in chasing teams down, we’d like to get a good start in the next game and see what we can do there.”