<
>

Cheika's Wallabies bully boys must simply go again

play
Tongan Thor re-signs for four years (0:56)

Prop Taniela Tupou has re-signed with the Wallabies and Queensland Rugby for another four years. (0:56)

Michael Hooper and Lukhan Salakai-Loto won the first two collisions of Bledisloe I.

Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda whacked Scott Barrett eleven minutes later. Alan Alalaatoa thumped Sam Cane to force a turnover.

Samu Kerevi ran straight at Kieran Read and sent the All Blacks skipper backwards. Then, in the second half, the Wallabies centre went all Jonah Lomu-on-Mike Catt, circa 1995, on Beauden Barrett.

Saturday night's 47-26 victory was the moment Michael Cheika's Wallabies at last measured up physically against the All Blacks. Australia's mission is to now serve up a repeat dose and not roll over at Eden Park in Bledisloe II.

Cheika, too, has his role to play and it is just as simple. Four years ago, when the Wallabies were in this exact position, the Wallabies coach made a raft of changes, including the benching David Pocock and promotion of Quade Cooper, that robbed Australia of the opportunity to truly challenge for the Bledisloe Cup.

The Wallabies coach must only tweak his side for injuries, as the 23 who bullied their All Blacks counterparts -- legally -- deserve a shot at ending Australia's 17-year Bledisloe drought at a venue where Australia haven't tasted victory since 1986.

"All we did tonight was get ourselves a ticket to Auckland, that's it," Cheika told Fox Sports post-match in Perth. "And then you've got to take the opportunity you're given there."

The Wallabies coach must embrace his own message, even if that means bringing a potentially fit-again Pocock off the bench.

Saturday night's 47-26 victory at Optus Stadium was the performance Australian rugby had been crying out for. Scott Barrett's dismissal on the stroke of halftime certainly made the second-half assignment significantly easier, but only a fool would suggest the Wallabies hadn't just owned the first 40.

The All Blacks may have scored two tries to one as Optus Stadium roared Wallabies and All Blacks chants in equal measure, but Christian Leali'ifano's second penalty goal ensured the Wallabies went to the break with a deserved 16-12 lead having enjoyed 81 percent possession and an incredible 87 percent of the territory.

After four seasons where they have struggled to break through New Zealand's black wall, Australia were at last winning the collisions, the crucial metres after contract; the Wallabies saw an opportunity to impose themselves on an All Blacks' engine lacking its chief piston in Brodie Retallick, and they capitalised on it.

Barrett's dismissal was hotly debated both at its delivery and in the 14 or so hours until SANZAAR issued its dangerous tackle charge on Sunday morning, but referee Jerome Garces' explanation perfectly followed the flow chart that World Rugby had recently released as the sanctioning framework for such incidents.

In rugby's new age of player safety, Barrett had to go; the All Blacks lock seemed to realise he was in trouble immediately after Garces called in the TMO, the New Zealander quietly retreating towards the All Blacks' dead-ball line as the Frenchman compared notes with assistant Marius Jonker.

The Wallabies still had to execute a man up and it was imperative that they crossed early to remove any lingering doubts as to whether they could really ram home their one-man advantage. Lukhan Salakai-Salakai-Loto's try four minutes upon the resumption did just that, paving the way for the wrecking ball that is Kerevi to deliver a power run for the highlights reel.

The site of Beauden Barrett tumbling back over his own head instantly evoked memories of the legendary Lomu's run in the 1995 World Cup semifinal against England, and the legacy the late All Black left to the game.

That Kerevi found Nic White for the final pass just as he was about to be bundled into touch seemed appropriate as the returned Wallabies scrum-half was a revelation in Perth.

White's selection ahead over Will Genia had been questioned in some corners, but such is the Exeter scrum-half's importance to this new Australian attack that he must be one of the first names on Cheika's teamsheet in Japan. James O'Connor has surely at least booked a seat on the plane, too.

White's ability to dart out from a ruck, hold passes up to commit the nearest ruck defenders or twist and weave his way through traffic himself, mean opposition defences cannot simply rush up on the Wallabies' first receiver. Australia have flattened right up in attack and White is a key cog in its execution.

The All Blacks certainly did well to heed coach Steve Hansen's halftime message to make the Wallabies work for their win despite being down a man, Beauden Barrett's effort on 55 minutes reminding Australia they couldn't afford to switch off early. There were few better than the All Blacks skipper, though, Read working as hard as ever to answer more than just the odd critic.

But this was Australia's night -- the first of its kind in Western Australia -- as further five-pointers to Reece Hodge, who enjoyed his best outing as Wallaby, and Kurtley Beale iced a memorable evening. The fullback's effort in the 80th minute seemed to serve a higher message, or at least wiped away any suggestion the Wallabies backline lacks strike weapons without Israel Folau.

The world champions will face some tough internal questions over the next few days while the knives have already come out in the media; one prominent New Zealand scribe declaring that a "golden generation of extraordinary All Black players is at an end."

The Wallabies cannot entertain that obituary and only have to go back four years for a reminder of how quickly things can turn around within seven days. The All Blacks will be desperate for atonement in Auckland, and they know no better place to get it than at Eden Park.

But the Wallabies now have a blueprint for success, too. Armed with the belief that if they aim up physically they have a game plan that can defeat the All Blacks next weekend, there can be no excuses for a performance that doesn't meet the same standard from Perth.

The same goes for Cheika.

The coach has to give his bunch of bully boys the chance to finish a Bledisloe job they started in Perth on Saturday night, one that to everyone else feels like it's been 17 years in the making.