The Wallabies’ record defeat against Scotland on the weekend capped off another disappointing season from the Australians. There were glimmers of hope of a new beginning as the Wallabies progressively improved throughout the Bledisloe Cup, but other than that it was a season filled with wins against tier two nations and struggling against the more competitive teams.
No one had much expectation of the Wallabies in 2017 after an average 2016 campaign and the Australian Super Rugby sides having one of their worst seasons to date. They kicked off their season with an expected win against Fiji in AAMI Park in Melbourne. Israel Folau showed he was going to be another key player in 2017 as he scored two tries in the 37 – 14 win.
Next up they took on the Scots who are always a tough match and this was no exception as the Wallabies fell short in a hard fought 19 – 24 loss in Sydney. They then took on Italy in Brisbane which was another expected win however it was only 28 – 27 with five minutes to play until two quick Wallaby tries pushed them out to a more respectable 40 – 27 score line.
The opening of the Rugby Championship gave everyone an idea of how far apart the Wallabies and All Blacks were, as the All Blacks went into half time leading 40 – 6. The Wallabies flicked a switch in the second half and crawled back into the game but the abundance of tries the All Blacks scored in the first half proved too much as the final whistle blew at 54 – 35.
A week later they headed to Dunedin, fired up to redeem themselves from the previous poor performance. Spectators were shocked as they read the score as 29 – 28 with one minute to play. But once again Beauden Barrett found a way to crush Australia’s heart as he crossed the line in the final minute of the game to steal the victory.
It was a thrilling encounter when they took on the Springboks in Perth but it ended in a 23-all draw, leaving both sides disappointed.
Australia claimed their first win of the Rugby Championship when they took on Argentina and came out on top 45 – 20. It was a traditional tight contest in the first half, but the Wallabies made the most of their opportunities in the second half against a tired Argentina side and finished an impressive performance.
Both teams were out to settle the scores after a previous draw but unbelievably the two sides drew again 27-all in Bloemfontein. These matches were definitely a disappointment for the Wallabies as they wanted to be able to close out the game in these tight contests, which they had struggled to do in 2017.
Another victory over Argentina away from home was their final game of The Rugby Championship, which put them in second place one point ahead of the Springboks. Two wins, two draws and two losses summed up a fairly mediocre campaign, but there were signs of potential and the introduction of young players like Lukhan Tui and Jordan Uelese showed this was a developing side that was building depth for the future.
Following the Rugby Championship was Australia’s biggest highlight of 2017, and probably their most meaningful win in recent years. The Wallabies broke the drought against their rivals from across the Tasman in the third Bledisloe Cup test thanks to man of the match Reece Hodge. A late penalty from Hodge cemented a 23 – 18 win.
The Wallabies then took on a Barbarians side in Sydney which was stacked with fellow Australians, giving Cheika a good look at the players at his disposal before the end of year tour. The Wallabies ended up winning the exhibition match 31 – 28 and was our first look at many players in gold such as Duncan Paia’aua, Bill Meakes, Liam Wright and more.
On their way to the UK the Wallabies stopped in Japan where they beat the Cherry Blossoms in a predictable 63 – 30 win. The Wallabies started their tour of the UK strongly by continuing their winning run against Wales with a 29 – 21 victory.
The end of their tour didn’t end as smoothly, as they lost 30 – 6 to England despite some extremely questionable refereeing decisions. Things didn’t get any better for them the following week as they were demolished 53 – 24 by Scotland. It didn’t help that they were playing with a man down for half the game but Michael Cheika made it clear that they can’t blame that for their collapse.
Overall, it was a frustrating year for Australia as they struggled to build momentum. The victory over the All Blacks was a big moment for them, but when they get demolished two weeks in a row just a month later they can’t be holding onto that.
A standout for the Wallabies once again was Israel Folau who was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year. The main positive from this season was we got to see Cheika continue to introduce new and exciting players which are certainly going to be necessary if the Wallabies want to be a serious contender at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Australia 37 – 14 Fiji
Australia 19 – 24 Scotland
Australia 40 – 2 7 Italy
Australia 34 – 54 New Zealand
New Zealand 35 – 29 Australia
Australia 23 – 23 South Africa
Australia 45 – 20 Argentina
South Africa 27 – 27 Australia
Argentina 20 – 37 Australia
Australia 23 – 18 New Zealand
Australia 31 – 28 Barbarians
Japan 30 – 63 Australia
Wales 21 – 29 Australia
England 30 – 6 Australia
Scotland 53 – 24 Australia
8 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws
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