The Melbourne Rebels back entered the fray on 44 minutes, replacing Bernard Foley, with the Wallabies trailing 26-8. Within seconds of being on, he made a break down the left side of the field, which ultimately led to Dane Haylett-Petty’s try and Australia’s comeback.
The difference Toomua made once he came on was ostensibly clear, as the Wallabies played with significantly more tempo and pinned Wales in their own half for much of the second half.
In the space of 25 minutes, the former Leicester Tigers utility back took the Wallabies within one point of Wales, although Warren Gatland’s side showed just enough to pull through 29-25 in the end.
However, the contrast in performance between Foley and Toomua has been noted by many Australians, who have questioned why Michael Cheika ever opted to play with the New South Wales Waratahs flyhalf. Foley has always been a conservative but popular option for Cheika, but he struggled to get Australia going in the first half. However, credit must be given to him, as he orchestrated Adam Ashley-Cooper’s first half try with a cross-field kick in what was Australia’s only chance of the half.
But the stark contrast in performance in the second half once Foley went off does not bode well for the 70-cap standoff for the rest of the Rugby World Cup, or indeed his international career.
Christian Lealiifano had been the prefered choice at ten for the Rugby Championship, but Cheika went for the player he has relied upon for the majority of his tenure, but it backfired majorly.
The surprising thing is that Toomua did not even need to do a lot to change the game. He was just more direct when he carried the ball and added a bit more urgency into the play. The 29-year-old is probably more comfortable as a centre, but he undoubtedly improved Australia’s lacklustre display. He was also helped by the addition of Nic White at scrumhalf, but he had already started to make inroads with Will Genia on the field too.
It was an impressive performance, which came close to saving the game for the Wallabies, and this was the reaction on Twitter:
Let’s just be honest. Foley cost us that game. Toomua nearly got us home.
— Ludwig (@LvonFeuerbach) September 29, 2019
Matt Toomua offers more in 44 seconds than Foley did in 44 minutes. Disgrace that Bernard started.
— Jack Quigley (@Jack_Quigley) September 29, 2019
And so ends Bernard Foley's Wallabies career
— Budu Bags (@Budulnya) September 29, 2019
Not gonna defend Foley, he was unable to do anything with what he got but by the time Toomua got on there was a ton more space and the welsh defensive line had slowed so im not ready to pretend he would have started well. We need our forwards to step up earlier.
— the NEW Wally-B-Jesus (@waratahjesus) September 29, 2019
Foley should never play for the @wallabies again.
Cheika's selections were again diabolical.
Wales were good, but Wallabies are a much more classier team when the right people are on the field.
Toomua's class showing perhaps solved the flyhalf debate.#AUSvWAL
— Brian Kolia (@BKolia) September 29, 2019
Australia look a different side since Toomua came on. Baffling that he didn’t start, likewise with Nic White. #AUSvWAL
— Rob Sutton (@RobSutton22) September 29, 2019
— Lucas (@lucasholmes12) September 29, 2019
Some terrible decisions against us but the sooner Chieka is gone the better. Toomua is by far our best 10 yet is Bill Murray in Groundhog Day still playing his mate Foley.
— Mitchell (@nightterror92) September 29, 2019
Toomua v Foley – night and day #WALvAUS
— Thor (@thornado_) September 29, 2019
That was probably Bernard Foley’s last game for the Wallabies and it just exemplifies how much of a role confidence, or lack of it, plays in success. Bernard exuded no confidence at all while Toomua played well and should take it from here you’d think.
— ?Wayne Longbottom (@WayneLongbottom) September 29, 2019
This leaves the Wallabies with a tough route for the rest of the RWC, as they look set to finish second in Pool D. That means they are likely to face Pool C favourites England in the quarter-final with the likelihood of facing the All Blacks in the semi-final should they pass that test.
The only positive for Australia is the flyhalf debate has been put to bed, as both Lealiifano and Toomua now seem ahead of Foley for the rest of the competition. If they are not, Cheika will be on the receiving end of a lot of criticism.
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