Ben Smith finds a break to run on and score a try for the All Blacks.
Ben Smith finds a break to run on and score a try for the All Blacks. DEAN LEWINS

Cheika stands by defence despite Bledisloe hammering

WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika remains adamant that assistant Nathan Grey is the right man to lead his side's defence.

For the second straight year the Wallabies were humiliated in front of their home fans, as the All Blacks racked up a record 40 first half points to set up their 54-34 win at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

The margin could have been bigger had the All Blacks not shut up shop midway through the second half, which allowed the Wallabies to add some respectability to the scoreboard by notching four tries.

But the 54,846 fans that showed up - down from 65,328 last year - witnessed another inept overall performance, which will place further strain on an already fed up rugby community.

The Wallabies conceded a point a minute in the first half and missed a staggering 35 tackles.

By the end of the match that number had extended to 48.


Henry Speight is tackled by Damian McKenzie and Joe Moody
Henry Speight is tackled by Damian McKenzie and Joe Moody DEAN LEWINS

But, speaking at the post-match press conference, the 2015 World Rugby coach of the year said he had no issues with Grey's defensive structures.

"100 per cent, 100 per cent," Cheika said of the faith he held in Grey.

Yet the Wallabies were made to look like bind bats in defence throughout the first 60 minutes.

Returning outside centre Samu Kerevi - playing his first match in more than two months because of injury - was brutally exposed.

Kerevi looked lost in defence, as the All Blacks' midfield sensed uncertainty and targeted him ruthlessly.

Fullback Israel Folau was also shown up in defence, with All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane making the Australian poster boy look silly by skinning him to score the visitors' second try.

Cheika refused to blame his side's character and instead said the Wallabies were guilty of not trusting their instincts.

"It's not attitude," Cheika said.

"I think it's maybe just that little bit of doubt creeps in.

"When something goes against you early, we've been preparing a certain way and it creeps in a little bit of doubt - will I go or will I hedge? - and that causes some of the problems."

The Wallabies went into the match with a clear emphasis of trying to score more points against the back-to-back world champions after managing just two tries in three matches during last year's Bledisloe Cup.

Kerevi, one of Super Rugby's most damaging ball runners, was selected alongside the returning Kurtley Beale to form the Wallabies' 10th midfield combination since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Sean McMahon was also selected in the back-row to offer some punch to the pack.


Sonny Bill Williams congratulates Ben Smith after scoring
Sonny Bill Williams congratulates Ben Smith after scoring DEAN LEWINS

But the decision ultimately backfired, as the All Blacks picked apart the Wallabies' defensive system.

Cheika admitted they couldn't just rely on playing attacking rugby as they prepare for the rematch in Dunedin next Saturday.

"With the team that we've got, the points should be coming," Cheika said.

"We've got an attacking type of team, so we should be scoring points.

"But you've got to have both sides of the game.

"We spoke about it inside (the changing rooms).

"Everyone understands what we've got to do to rectify that next week, both mentally and then on the training paddock."

The eight tries to four thrashing came after the Wallabies, for the second year straight, had a month to prepare for the match.

The All Blacks had considerably less time - with four Super Rugby franchises involved in the finals - but managed to play a warm-up match.

But Cheika said the Wallabies' preparation couldn't have been better, despite admitting that a lack of match practice can hurt.

"I think we had the right preparation, no doubt," he said.

"Obviously not playing a lot of footy, that leaves you out a little bit missing the games.

"But that's as good as we could have had it.

"It comes to bringing that into the game.

"One of the big things for us when we get into that situation and we've seen it in '15 and '16 is the longer we're together and playing footy, the better we're starting to get together, especially the combinations that we have.

"That still doesn't help us with anything about this game.

"You still feel just as bad obviously, but I know that we will improve and we've got to do some quick improving for the next game.

"We want to keep the series alive."

The Wallabies fly to Christchurch today to begin their preparations.

And despite the heavy defeat, Cheika said he'd be hesitant to make many changes.

"I don't think that there's going to be a lot of changes," he said. '

"The change has to be more about believing in ourselves to go up and make the hits when we need, tracking well on the inside and making sure we're coming up in defence.

"And backing ourselves and not worrying about what the opposition might be doing out the back or out wide, playing exactly what's in front of us defensively."

News Corp Australia

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