Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Wallabies gambles come up short

The Wallabies brought attitude, in the form of niggle, and Quade Cooper wearing a new pair of what were surely the brightest boots to have left a sprig mark on the Westpac Stadium turf.

Neither could light the way for their team tonight. The stadium was plunged into darkness for five minutes before kick-off for the pre-match entertainment, and Michael Cheika and his men would have left it in a similar mood; their sixth test loss in a row, the Bledisloe Cup gone for another year.

Even the thought of going home to their own beds might not hold as much appeal as it should given the critics who are no doubt waiting for them. Former test wing Clyde Rathbone had a crack at them during the week, who's going to put the boot in next?

The controversial Cooper, unmistakable in his florescent orange numbers, tried to hide away from the front line on defence in a sweeper's role. He wasn't to blame for this latest defeat, his first test for the Wallabies since the pool stage of the last World Cup, but he presented no threat whatsoever on attack in the first half, carrying the ball only twice and making no progress with it.

In the second half, Cooper carried twice again, but was again stopped behind the advantage line.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles was more of a threat with the ball. Yes, Coles had the benefit of playing in a dominant pack, but the fact remains that the selection of Cooper, with regular No 10 Bernard Foley at second-five, was a gamble that didn't pay off for coach Cheika. As All Black new boy Anton Lienert-Brown had a night to remember in his specialist position of second-five, Australia's backline had all the consistency of a roll of the dice.

The All Blacks' own compromise of playing Israel Dagg on the right wing, meanwhile, worked a treat, the regular fullback scoring a double in the first half and looking like he belonged in the No 14 jersey. The world champions, who swept Wales in June and have twice put big scores on Australia, are on a special kind of roll, as is coach Steve Hansen.
Cooper's opposite Beauden Barrett appeared to be playing a different game.

One of his trademark arcing runs resulted in Dagg's second try, Cooper one of the men beaten in the right corner, and a short 22m dropout went straight into Jerome Kaino's hands.

He has become used to pulling the strings for the Hurricanes on his home pitch and the same applies to the black No 10 jersey.

Barrett disappointed only with his goalkicking, kicking four from seven.

Otherwise it was his night again. As a head to head battle between Barrett, who moved to fullback for the final 15 minutes after the arrival of Aaron Cruden, and Cooper, it wasn't even close. The future remains bright for the All Blacks, for the Wallabies there is little light at the end of the tunnel.

- NZ Herald

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