Rugby

Cheika keeps feet on ground after Wales mauling

2016-11-05 22:00
Michael Cheika (Getty Images)

Cardiff - Australia coach Michael Cheika refused to get carried away after watching his team destroy Wales 32-8 in the opening match of their gruelling six-game autumn tour.

Cheika has consistently played down expectations of a first Wallaby Grand Slam since 1984 with games lined up against Scotland, France, Ireland and England, plus a midweek match with the French Barbarians.

But on the strength of a stunning first-half in Cardiff, where his team ran in three tries for a 20-3 half-time lead, few would doubt that Australia have the attacking nous and defensive hardness to severely test all the Home Nations.

"We prepared well during the week," said Cheika, who led his team to the World Cup final before a change in playing personnel coincided with a dip in form.

That saw the Wallabies suffer a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of a touring England side and a record 42-6 home defeat by New Zealand.

But, fired by flyhalf Bernard Foley, the team played a gloriously unshackled style of rugby in Cardiff, a solid forward platform setting up the likes of Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty to run a shambolic Welsh defence amok.

"The boys believed in our preparation and went out there and played that way," Cheika said, praising their "attitude and willingness to work hard".

"Foley played very well, that goes without saying. He had a good platform laid for him by the forwards and he had some good running backs on the outside of him as well. It was a team effort.

"It's a good win for us today, but that's the standard we need to remain consistent with and slightly improve on if we can."

Cheika also had a word of sympathy for Wales, comparing their under-cookedness to Australia's own when they lost to England in June.

"It's difficult, that's the nature of the seasons," he said.

"We've got to make sure that we keep getting fitter and more battle-hardened for the matches ahead because they're only going to get tougher as teams from the Northern Hemisphere get more games under their belt.

"It's a good start, obviously, but we're going to try to take it one match at a time."

Foley exchanged an early penalty with Leigh Halfpenny before the visitors scored three first-half tries from skipper Stephen Moore, Reece Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani to lay the bedrock for a dominant display.

Foley himself stretched the lead early in the second period with his own try before Scott Williams pulled one back for the home side, Haylett-Petty having the last laugh when he crossed for a fifth try.

Wales coach Rob Howley, temporarily at the helm with Warren Gatland having been seconded to the British and Irish Lions ahead of the 2017 tour to New Zealand, called the game "very disappointing, very frustrating".

"The possession and territory at one point were over 80 percent, it wasn't what we expected," said the former Wales scrum-half. "We never had a foothold in the game.

"When you give a side that's very cohesive, that's been together the period of time they have been, you can see how effective they are, particularly with the speed of ball in the contact area and we were unable to influence that area and then we were unable to get our defensive line set so it made it very, very difficult.

"In fairness to Australia, they took every possible advantage that they could, created a number of tries and scored."

Howley added: "Because of the scoreboard, you start playing too much rugby in your own half, trying to force things because you're playing against the scoreboard and that has an influence in terms of the Australian defensive line, which was pretty aggressive.

"I thought we could be defensively better, particularly structurally, we made a couple of wrong reads. The boys were despondent coming in at half-time.

"It showed that the more you play at this level exposed to teams like that the more you learn."

Wales next face Argentina before hosting Japan and South Africa, captain Gethin Jenkins acknowledging that the Pumas would be a tough test.

"Argentina are up there with the top teams, performing well in the Rugby Championship," the prop said.

"They pose a few different threats but they're definitely another strong team. We've got to bounce back."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  michael cheika  |  rugby
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