Disgusted by his side’s inept defence, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika couldn’t find a single positive in the immediate aftermath to Australia’s humiliating 42-8 Rugby Championship loss to the All Blacks.
“That would be a lie of me if I tried to find one,” Cheika said after the Wallabies suffered their heaviest loss on Australian soil in 113 years.
The rampant All Blacks piled on six tries to one in an attacking masterclass at ANZ Stadium to leave Australia’s Bledisloe Cup hopes in tatters.
The shellshocked Wallabies were dominated in every facet, with the scrum and lineout malfunctioning, the breakdown ravaged and bodies broken in a disastrous start to the tournament.
But upsetting Cheika most of all were the 38 missed tackles from the Wallabies.
He refused to blame his players’ lack of game time, with most not having played in more than a month, for the substandard performance.
“Defence is attitude. There’s no rustiness. Let’s get that one out of the way, right,” Cheika said.
“When players run at you, you’ve got to tackle and that’s the nature of the game.
“So when other things don’t work out, that will look after you.”
The Test was all over by halftime, with the Wallabies trailing 32-3 and barely able to field a backline following worrying injuries to Matt Giteau (ankle), Matt Toomua (neck/head) and Rob Horne (shoulder).
So dire was the casualty toll that reserve halfback Nick Phipps played on the wing, forced to mark up on All Blacks powerhouse Julian Savea, as Australia’s hopes of ending a 14-year Bledisloe Cup drought suffered a psychological hammer blow.
Without a victory in New Zealand in 15 years, the Wallabies must now win twice in two months across the Tasman to miraculously wrestle back the trophy.
With that goal seemingly a pipedream, the first priority will be regrouping for next Saturday’s return bout in Wellington, with Cheika certain to require several reinforcements.
Newly appointed national skills coach Mick Byrne also has a huge task trying to solve Australia’s kicking woes after a series of fundamental blunders cost the Wallabies.
Giteau, who lasted barely 10 minutes before limping off in a painful re-run of his 2015 World Cup final despair, failed to find touch from a penalty before the All Blacks’ first try, while Bernard Foley and Israel Folau both had clearing kicks charged down, Foley’s gifting Jerome Kaino a five-pointer.
But defence and the set piece remain Cheika’s biggest concerns, with the All Blacks winning five lineouts on Australia’s throws and also a rare scrum against the feed.
“It’s hard to know what to say,” said shattered skipper Stephen Moore.
“I feel for all our fans who came out tonight. It wasn’t good enough for us tonight.”
The defeat marked five straight losses for the Wallabies but Cheika said he wouldn’t consider personnel changes until a thorough review of Saturday night’s debacle.