Cheika vows changes to bumbling Wallabies

Scotland players celebrate after receiving a penalty to end the game and defeat Australia in Sydney June 17, 2017. — Reuters pic
Scotland players celebrate after receiving a penalty to end the game and defeat Australia in Sydney June 17, 2017. — Reuters pic

SYDNEY, June 18 — Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has demanded greater urgency from his players and vowed team changes in the wake of their spluttering Test defeat to Scotland.

The Australians gave away two tries and could not make up the leeway despite dominating territory and possession to go down 24-19 to the resilient Scots in Sydney yesterday.

The loss will have ramifications with an imminent slump to sixth in the next world rankings  — behind Ireland, Scotland and South Africa — the Wallabies’ lowest position since early 2015.

The Scottish defeat comes against the backdrop of a demoralising Super Rugby season for Australian teams and the negativity over the drawn-out SANZAAR saga to cull three teams from next year’s competition.

Cheika has signalled changes following the chastening defeat for the next Test against Six Nations strugglers Italy in Brisbane on Saturday.

“I’d say so, I’d say there’d be a few,” Cheika told reporters after yesterday’s loss.

“It’s about being more urgent to the game, you’ve got to make it happen — it’s not just going to happen for you.

“You’ve got to have guys with that attitude. You eliminate all the excuses and you just stay at it and make the team come there.”

Cheika, who cut a frustrated figure watching the game from the coach’s box in the stands, said the Wallabies were “half-a-yard away all the match”.

Compounding the loss was the Wallabies’ self-inflicted wounds during a dreadful opening half.

The Scots led 17-12 at half-time with both their tries coming off Australian mistakes.

Centre Duncan Taylor swooped on a poor Will Genia pass and fly-half Finn Russell charged down Genia’s clearing kick for another try.

‘Will’ power lacking

Only two tries from Israel Folau — one from a long ball from Bernard Foley and the other when the athletic fullback soared spectacularly to snatch Foley’s pinpoint crossfield kick — kept the Wallabies in the first half.

Yet despite the intensity ratcheting up after half-time and Australia hitting the front at 19-17 midway through the second half, Scotland roared back with a magnificent try by openside flanker Hamish Watson.

Winger Lee Jones hurdled a tackler and linked with Taylor to give Watson clear passage to the try-line and the Scots held on to their advantage to the final whistle.

“We made so many breaks. We didn’t have enough guys there to will the ball over the line,” Cheika said.

“That’s something that we’ve got to get sorted out because otherwise we’ll always be in these battles when we maybe shouldn’t be.

“There wasn’t a huge amount of dropped balls, or we didn’t have a lot of missed tackles or anything like that.

“But in some of the key moments, you need to have that focus of like, ‘I’m going to step up and make this happen’.”

Skipper Michael Hooper admitted after the game he had erred in not taking kicks for goal with a couple of penalties in the final stages.

“I really thought we had the momentum. I’m the ultimate believer in our guys to do the job and maybe too much so tonight,” Hooper said.

“In hindsight, maybe we could have gone to the goal just to mount up a bit of pressure.

“However, I was feeling that we were starting to get some really good pressure built on them with the amount of time we were spending in their 22, and I was waiting on a try to happen.

“I thought it would. It got very close a couple of times. Look, yeah, frustrating but plenty to look at on Monday.” — AFP

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