Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Three highs and lows of Deans' reign

Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images
Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images

With Robbie Deans' reign as Wallabies coach coming to an official end today, Patrick McKendry looks back on what has been an up and down tenure.

Highlights

Winning the Tri Nations in 2011
Australia wrapped up the final Tri Nations tournament (before it turned into the Rugby Championship) with a 25-20 victory over the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium, their first win at the venue against their arch rivals. It was the final test for both nations before the World Cup of that year and a timely reminder for the All Blacks that they had a fair bit of improving to do. Those were the days when Quade Cooper was in the fold and he ran the show with his good mate Will Genia. One of the other highlights for Aussie supporters was Radike Samo's barnstorming run for a try after fending off Adam Thomson.

Beating the world champion Boks
Deans enjoyed a fabulous start to his reign in 2008. His first test in charge was a 16-9 victory over South Africa in Perth, a win which had the Aussie scribes falling over themselves to praise him. "Time to Bok'n'roll'' was the headline in Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper of the win over the world champions.

Iain Payten wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: "In an intense battle that saw both sides exhausted at the final whistle, the Wallabies overcame a brutal Springboks defence in a magnificent performance.'' Deans enjoyed a good record over the Springboks, winning nine from 14 matches.

Victory over the All Blacks in 2008
If his first match in charge was impressive, his second was stunning. A week after the win in Perth the Wallabies beat Graham Henry's All Blacks 34-19 in Sydney. There was pressure on Deans to prove a point or two against Henry and he delivered. Matt Giteau converted all four of the Wallabies' tries and kicked a penalty and dropped goal for good measure. Giteau was ultimately unwanted by Deans and left to ply his trade in France. It wasn't the first time a talented player got offside with Deans and came off second best. For more see Quade Cooper.

Lowlights

The two losses to Scotland
Losing to the Scots 9-8 at Murrayfield in 2009 was one thing, losing to them 9-6 last year on Australian soil - Newcastle - quite another. Poor old Matt Giteau missed what would have been a match-winning conversion after the hooter four years ago. It was the first time Scotland had claimed Australia's scalp since 1982 and the first time they had managed to beat a Tri Nations side in seven years. It ended Australia's 16-match winning streak over the Scots. In Newcastle last year, more late dramatics. Greig Laidlaw kicked the match-winning penalty after the hooter to hand Scotland their first away win over any of the southern hemisphere's big three for almost 30 years.

The defeat to 32-23 Samoa in Sydney.
Picture the scene in 2011. Wallabies greats John Eales, Rod McCall, Ewen McKenzie, Jeff Miller and David Campese were presented to the ANZ Stadium crowd before kick-off in memory of their deeds in winning the World Cup 20 years earlier. What followed was less a celebration of Australian rugby, more a demolition job by Samoa. Deans was later criticised for fielding a "B'' team, with Campese the most strident. "The Wallabies deserved what they got,'' Campo would later say. "You just can't give guys test caps for the sake of giving them test match experience. It's wrong. I really could not understand what was going on out there. Don't those involved with the Wallabies understand that this is a World Cup year, and you don't fool around with your Test team?''

A "toxic'' environment.
Quade Cooper's comments last year about the "toxic'' environment within the Wallabies highlighted the divisions in the camp. Cooper first tweeted it and then added in a television interview: "There's a lot of people who are afraid to say what they feel so they just go along with it and nothing is going to change. That's why I feel so strongly as a player. I don't want to be involved in the toxic environment, and that's how it is at the moment.'' Deans' failure to keep Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor in check was symptomatic of the discipline issues in his team.

- APNZ

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