For so long the Wallabies’ scrum has been derided as not just their Achilles heel but also the laughing stock of world rugby.
Much of the pre-match talk heading into Saturday’s vital Pool A showdown between Australia and England had centred around the scrum, and whether the Wallabies would turn to mush as they had in the past.
England refused to believe Australia had improved – and vowed to revive the demons of scrums past.
As recently as 11 months ago at Twickenham Australia’s scrum has been humiliated by their fierce rivals – none more so than in 2005 when they were forced into uncontested when Matt Dunning was taken from the field on a stretcher.
On Saturday night at Twickenham, with 81,010 watching on, the tables were turned – and the outcome was a 31-13 thrashing.
England fell to pieces, conceding three first-half scrum penalties – and six by fulltime – as respected French referee Romain Poite came down hard on their loosehead prop Joe Marler for boring in at an angle.
Marler was hooked after 50 minutes following a terse exchange with Poite about coming in at an angle after he’d conceded a fourth penalty.
It was sweet justice for the Wallabies camp, who had privately begun to voice concerns about Marler’s nefarious tactics.
World Cup-winning Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer shone the spotlight on Marler’s tendency to come in at an angle – and his warnings were heeded.
Cheika refused to get carried away with his scrum’s demolition job – instead choosing to remind them the task doesn’t get any easier against Wales next Saturday.
“Like I’ve said before, the scrum is a very humbling part of the game because you can dominate one and then get your pants pulled down in the next one if you’re not on top of your game,” he said.
“Yeah OK, that went well for us tonight but we’ve got to be consistent with it again next week and again and again.
“Everyone’s a threat. We’ll have to be ready for the challenge that we’re going to see in that part of the game from Wales on Saturday.”
That advice was heeded by star back-rower David Pocock, who again impressed in his role as the new No.8.
Pocock said it would take more than one dominant outing to change the reputation of the Australian scrum – but the work was being done with scrum doctor Mario Ledesma to ensure it happened.
“I don’t know if you can do that in one game,” he said.
“Certainly it’s a pleasing step forward and it’s an area we’ve been putting a lot of work into.
“I’m really proud of the guys up front. They’re doing the hard yards but (it’s) one good performance – you’ve got to back it up week in, week out.”