Tuesday 22 October 2019

Cheika rages as Welsh put one foot into the last eight

Wales 29 Australia 25

Wales’ Gareth Davies dives over to score his side’s second try in their victory over Australia. Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato
Wales’ Gareth Davies dives over to score his side’s second try in their victory over Australia. Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

On the pitch the rugby continues to thrill, even when it is played to a sound-track of the gnashing of coaches' teeth.

Once again, refereeing inconsistencies dominated the post-match discourse in Tokyo as Michael Cheika questioned the direction World Rugby are taking with the policing of the high tackle.

'Cheika was particularly upset at the decision to punish his centre, Samu Kerevi, for a dangerous charge that connected with the throat of Rhys Patchell who was attempting to tackle him high.' Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
'Cheika was particularly upset at the decision to punish his centre, Samu Kerevi, for a dangerous charge that connected with the throat of Rhys Patchell who was attempting to tackle him high.' Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Australia's former Leinster coach cut a frustrated figure after his side's attempt at a tournament-record comeback was thwarted by an excellent final stand by Wales.

After Ireland wilted in the humidity in Shizuoka, Warren Gatland's men found a second wind from somewhere in Tokyo yesterday.

The final three minutes were played in gloomy darkness after a number of the floodlights at the Tokyo Stadium failed. Cheika took it as a metaphor for the potential death of the sport amidst growing pressure on officials to cut out high hits and reduce the incidence of concussion.

"I don't understand any more," he said. "They (the referees) all seem spooked. Everybody seems worried, they are all worried about stuff so much.

Hadleigh Parkes of Wales dives over to score their first try despite the challenge by Dane Haylett-Petty . Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
Hadleigh Parkes of Wales dives over to score their first try despite the challenge by Dane Haylett-Petty . Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

"I am not sure why they are so worried, the players aren't worried. Then it's affecting everything else on the field. Decisions on all types of crazy stuff.

"Then I heard the English guy (Piers Francis) got off a suspension. Maybe the lights going out at the end is a bit of a symbol."

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Cheika was particularly upset at the decision to punish his centre, Samu Kerevi, for a dangerous charge that connected with the throat of Rhys Patchell who was attempting to tackle him high.

On the pitch, his captain, Michael Hooper, argued that it was the tackler who had offended and he had a lengthy argument with referee Romain Poite about the decision.

The French official wasn't for turning and Wales went down the field and Patchell scored from the tee.

After losing Reece Hodge to a three-game ban for his high shot on Fiji's Perceli Yato, the coach is unhappy with the direction World Rugby are taking.

"When our guy makes that tackle and has the high tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. This guy doesn't think about the high tackle framework and we get penalised.

Embarrassed

"As a rugby player, a former player, I am embarrassed here. As a rugby player I am embarrassed.

"You have got to care on the field, you have got to look after players, but not to the extreme where you are looking after the players just for the doctors and lawyers. You've got to look after the players for the players."

Those players must pick themselves up now and get through their games against Uruguay and Georgia before the quarter-final. That looks likely to be against England. Their coach, Eddie Jones, was roundly booed at the stadium when his image was beamed on the big screen. If England top their pool, they now have a template for beating the Wallabies.

Wales were superb in the first-half, scoring the quickest drop-goal in World Cup history through Dan Biggar before the outhalf put a brilliant chip up for Hadleigh Parkes to score a try.

Australia hit back through Adam Ashley-Cooper, but by half-time they were 15 points adrift as Gareth Davies rushed up and intercepted Will Genia's pass and raced home from 60m and Patchell added a series of penalties and a drop-goal of his own.

Dane Haylett-Petty crossed for a try after the break as the Wallaby bench came in and stepped things up. They got within a point when Matt Toomua kicked a penalty, but Wales found something from somewhere and wrested control back with Patchell giving them a bit of breathing space from the tee.

Liam Williams won the crucial turnover and Gatland could reflect on a great night at the office.

"This team as a squad has grown up in terms of game management," he said.

"That's improved significantly. We've learned a lot from those experiences about management, coming off the bench, shown real character."

Although their fixture with Fiji is a tricky one, Wales are on course to top Pool D to set up a last-eight clash with France or Argentina.

WALES - L Williams; G North, J Davies, H Parkes (O Watkin 70), J Adams; D Biggar (R Patchell 28), G Davies; W Jones (N Smith 49), K Owens (E Dee 66), T Francis (D Lewis 64); J Ball (A Shingler 64), AW Jones; A Wainright (R Moriarty 50), J Tipuric, J Navidi.
AUSTRALIA - D Haylett-Petty; A Ashley-Cooper (K Beale 48), J O'Connor, S Kerevi, M Koroibete; B Foley, W Genia; B Foley (M Toomua 44), W Genia (N White 53); S Sio (J Slipper 63), T Latu (J Uelese 66), A Alaalatoa (S Kepu 63); I Rodda, R Arnold (A Coleman 63); D Pocock, M Hooper, I Naisarani (L Salakaia-Loto 68).
REF - R Poite (France)

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