Michael Cheika enraged after Australia lose Rugby World Cup classic to Wales
Wallabies defeated 29-25 after a stirring second half fightback falls short and their coach was not best pleased with the performance of the officials
Wales and Australia might have offered up arguably the match of the tournament so far. But having a losing share in a Rugby World Cup classic did little to improve the furious mood of Michael Cheika.
If the Wallabies coach had been irritable in the build up, he seemed ready to implode by the end of the 29-25 defeat in Tokyo. He even acknowledged as much, as he cut short his awkward post-match TV interview.
“I will just keep them to myself,” Cheika said, when asked what positives he took from a second-half comeback by his side that fell just short of victory.
“I know you are expecting me to go, so I will just keep my powder dry and see where we end up.”
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There has been a tinderbox atmosphere for all of this World Cup so far over the issue of officiating, particularly in relation to perceived dangerous play. Cheika, as might have been expected, has been the most combustible presence as a result.
“There is a part of it which is us versus everyone else,” Cheika said in the build up to the Wales game.
That siege mentality had been fostered in the fallout to Australia’s opening match against Fiji. They won that comfortably in the end, but subsequently lost wing Reece Hodge to a three-week suspension after a hearing into a dangerous tackle he had made.
Cheika vented at a variety of targets in between matches. He suggested John McKee, the Fiji coach, had played an underhand role in the process in which Hodge was cited.
The judicial hearing had been unfair, too, he intimated. Despite all that, “we are not going to let it derail us,” he had said.
“We will suck it up and get focused on what is important – the match on Sunday. We are not going to let them get to us.”
Whether that worked is debatable. A first-half onslaught led by their brilliant scrum-half Gareth Davies had given Wales a 23-8 lead by half time, and Australia’s players were on edge.
Cheika’s mood was transmitted to his players on the field, too.
When centre Samu Kerevi was penalised by referee Romain Poite for leading with his forearm into a tackle, and making contact with Rhys Patchell’s throat as a result, Australia’s captain Michael Hooper took issue.
“Can we not run into the tackle anymore?” Hooper asked of the official, with his words being broadcast via the referee’s microphone. Hooper then went on to question, in highly critical terms, Patchell’s tackling technique.
For his part, Kerevi appeared contrite. After listening to Poite’s assessment, he made a beeline for Patchell to offer his apologies.
Australia were emboldened by the perceived injustice, as tries by Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself brought them to within striking distance of the Welsh.
They missed out in the end, though, which means they will likely be playing for second place in Pool B now.
Cheika was enraged. “As a rugby player, a former rugby player, I’m embarrassed about that,” he said in his press conference of the Kerevi incident, which he likened to that which saw Hodge banned.
“I don’t know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don’t know the rules anymore.”
Victory was well merited for the Welsh, though. They had the rare feat of two players landing drop goals, with Dan Biggar striking in the first minute of the game, and Patchell at the start of the second half.
Davies scored an intercept try to cap his sparkling display. Hadleigh Parkes scored a 13th minute try following a deft cross-kick by Biggar, who was forced off later in the first half by a head injury sustained in making a try saving tackle.
“It is massive,” Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, said of the win. “We are two from two, and we have to make sure we go and do a job. We have Fiji next, which will be tough.
“They will be hurting after their loss to Uruguay, so we have to be ready for a really tough encounter against them.”
Published: September 29, 2019 04:51 PM