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1. How Reece Hodge and Matt Philip won the Test for the Wallabies.
There were a number of moments that swung a wild but entertaining Test the Wallabies' way against the All Blacks in Brisbane. However, the biggest momentum shifts both featured the same two players: Matt Philip and Reece Hodge. As the whistle blew at the end of the first half, you could see Hodge running to Philip to congratulate him, and for good reason.
The big Melbourne Rebels lock had just picked off an All Blacks throw in front of Sam Whitelock, just as the visitors were desperately trying to score a try to give them a big psychological edge at half-time. The second critical play came after 62 minutes, with the Wallabies trailing 15-14. From a lineout five metres from their own line, Philip won clean ball and Hodge banged it 50 metres into touch. It was a magnificent clearance.
Marika Koroibete was among the Wallabies’ best.Credit:Getty
Granted, the Waratahs No.6 gave the Wallabies some physicality during his 30-odd minutes on the field, but no more than back-row partners Harry Wilson and Michael Hooper (the captain was increasingly strong as the game progressed). Swinton has a big future. He is a compelling athlete to watch because of that gladiatorial streak, but the days of having players who make a living of smashing blokes from the chest up are gone. Too much risk, too little return.
4. Wallabies unveil 'centipede ruck' and win contestable kicks.
By my count there were at least half a dozen kick contests in the Test, and the majority were won by the Wallabies. The All Blacks' back three had a night to forget under the high ball, in part due to a far better Wallabies kick chase, and in part due to a more accurate kicking game from No.9 Nic White.
Interestingly, the Wallabies also introduced a tactic that has been popular in the northern hemisphere this year – the 'centipede ruck'. Essentially it's the formation of a 'long ruck' to protect the halfback when he kicks, and has been taken to ridiculous lengths in Europe, with the No.9 kicking from a position about three metres behind where the ruck was formed.
The Wallabies didn't go that far, but it appeared to be a tactic introduced to take the pressure off White and give him some more time to put up a well-weighted kick. Is that one of the little bits and pieces from the north that Rennie has brought back?
5. Australian rugby has won a moral victory.
Four games against the All Blacks: two losses, one draw, and one victory. However, that's not the true scorecard from a remarkable year. When the future plans for trans-Tasman Super Rugby are unveiled shortly, they will have room for five Australian teams.
That's a moral win for Australia, given the messages coming from New Zealand earlier in the year.
In fact, the Brisbane Test summed up the relationship between Australia and New Zealand quite nicely.
The Kiwis have the edge overall, but they continue to underestimate Australian rugby and pay the price for it. They changed their side dramatically from the Sydney Test, resting Richie Mo'unga and Caleb Clarke, and their advantage over the Wallabies is more fragile than they would like to think.
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