Beale the prime culprit for fumbling Wallabies
CHRIS BARCLAY IN SYDNEY
Kurtley Beale maintained a low profile in the lead-up to last night's Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks, and the Wallabies fullback will no doubt wish to remain anonymous after making a spectacle of himself at ANZ Stadium.
Beale was shielded from post-match media commitments after the All Blacks extended their trans-Tasman dominance with a 27-19 victory to launch the Rugby Championship, though he clearly had some explaining to do for his shattered colleagues after he facilitated tries to Israel Dagg and Cory Jane.
Beale's ineffectual tackling and an inexcusable handling error were the basis of both All Black touchdowns and left the Wallabies supposed X-factor appearing distinctly B-grade as the world champions exploited his deficiencies to build an unassailable eight-point lead at halftime.
The 23 year-old has been riddled with injuries this season and now Beale's confidence has presumably suffered after Dagg and Jane had him flailing as the All Blacks twice scored off the back of a dominant scrum.
Beale made just nine appearances for the Melbourne Rebels due to a variety of medical issues and ominously his last test cap of 2012 - the final international against Wales in June - was marred by errors as he sought to pose an offensive threat from deep.
And now Beale's defensive work is under the spotlight ahead of Saturday's rematch at Eden Park - a test the Wallabies must win to have a chance of regaining the trophy for the first time since 2003 when the third Bledisloe clash is hosted by Brisbane on October 20.
His miss on Dagg after the Wallabies midfield was distracted by Sonny Bill Williams' decoy running was exacerbated seven minutes before the break when he knocked on a straight forward pass from Will Genia.
From the resulting set piece 10-metres from the Wallabies line man of the match Dagg produced the key transition to Jane who also glided past Beale with ease.
Beale was not the only player guilty of undermining Australia's attempt to avenge their semi-final defeat at the World Cup - Scott Higginbotham dropped the ball with the line virtually begging while Berrick Barnes also caused anxiety for coach Robbie Deans, particularly when a wild pass behind Beale put the Wallabies under pressure behind their posts.
Traditional scrummaging concerns were also evident in the 67th minute when the Wallabies pack was splintered and crucially David Pocock was also outmuscled at the breakdown.
Beale, however, was a convenient scapegoat.
"Set piece tries shouldn't happen," lamented vice-captain Genia.
"The first one they scored was a good play and we missed that tackle at the end, the second one was just lazy.
"We shouldn't get beaten on the outside like that and miss that one-on-one tackle.
"It's uncharacteristic for Kurtley. He's as disappointed as everyone."
Coach Robbie Deans, who now has a three-win 13-loss record against the All Blacks since his reign began in 2008, would not name names during his post-match assessment nor did he have to when declaring: "Some of the errors were not acceptable under any circumstances."
Pocock, whose grazed face told the story of another intensely physical confrontation with Richie McCaw and his fellow loose forwards, was predictably glum after leading the Wallabies against their greatest rivals for the first time.
"It was disappointing," said Pocock, who was responsible for two of Daniel Carter's five successful penalty attempts.
"I thought they put us under a lot of pressure in our half and forced a lot of turnovers at the breakdown."
Before kick-off the Wallabies emphasised the importance of starting strongly against the All Blacks, instead they faced an 18-3 deficit until Nathan Sharpe bridged the gap a minute before the break.
"We just didn't trust how we wanted to play in the first half," admitted Genia.
"To their credit they put you under pressure, force you to play and we got sucked right in and made those errors."
While Beale's tackling is a prime concern, Deans acknowledged the Wallabies difficulty getting across the line was also a worry given they have only scored six tries in five tests so far this year.
"It's not where we'd like it to be," he said.
Deans was noncommittal about the possibility of Quade Cooper replacing Barnes as pivot at Eden Park, the scene of his World Cup agony, in a bid to boost the Wallabies potency.
"We'll make those decisions at a later date," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should Robbie Deans be retained as coach of the Wallabies?Related story: (See story)