Wallabies shock: Where to now after ‘hollow’ draw?
If the officials had only had the foresight to call the match off after the anthems, the Wallabies would have fooled everyone into thinking that Australia really does have talent.
Kudos to Rugby Australia for getting the Wallabies to sing the first half of the national anthem in Indigenous language, but no credit goes to the players for not being on song in the match.
All the excuses about the Wallabies rebuilding for the next World Cup doesn't pass the pub test anymore because this was one of their most erratic performances in years.
Make no mistake about it: drawing 16-16 at home against a weakened Argentina team should count as a loss because this is a game the Wallabies should have won.
"It's a hollow feeling," Wallabies captain Michael Hooper admitted. "It's very disappointing."
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Reece Hodge was inconsolable after missing a last-minute penalty that would have won the game but that was not where the Wallabies lost it.
Australia had 70% of possession and 79% of territory but threw it away with poor discipline and terrible ball control.
"We made dumb some errors and got punished for it," Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.
"There's obviously areas we know we need to be better, we won one out of six if you look at it from that perspective so it's disappointing but we've got an understanding of where we're at.
"You've got to convert one of those opportunities and it's a different result."
The rain was no excuse nor was the sending off Lukhan Salakaia-Loto or the yellow card given to Hooper because Marcos Kremer and Lucas Paulos were also sin-binned for the Pumas - decisions which continue to make a mockery of the code.
Everyone understands why World Rugby officials are clamping down on dangerous hits to the head but the rules have gone too far that it is ruining the contest with too many players getting marched for accidental collisions.
The players all know the rules so only have themselves to blame and the Wallabies can't be forgiven for continually failing to capitalise on opportunities.
The Wallabies have been in camp together for months now but were so out of sorts they looked like they were meeting on a Tinder date for the first time.
Under Rennie, the Wallabies have won just one of their six matches this year - a dead rubber against the All Blacks - with three of the other five matches ending in stalemates.
On each occasion, Hodge has had chances to win those games but has failed with his long-range efforts after the Wallabies had turned down easier shots earlier in the match.
This was the case once again at Bankwest Stadium, leaving even the Wallabies' most faithful supporters wondering whether Australian rugby is in terminal decline.
It was a comedy of errors at times as the Australian players kept dropping the ball, throwing wild passes to no-one and kicking away possession with Jordan Petatia among the worst offenders.
"We're a work in progress," Rennie said.
"We've got good men who have worked hard and come together well but we need to see that reflected in performance. There's no lack of heart and no lack of effort but we've got to be way more clinical."
Worryingly, the Wallabies still don't realise their limitations.
They spent the first 15 minutes camped inside the Argentine quarter and couldn't get the ball over the line while Hooper - whose captaincy has rightly come under increased scrutiny - turned down four possible shots at goal.
The penny finally dropped and he pointed to the sticks and Hodge gave Australia their first points but the Pumas hit back straight away with a penalty from Nicolas Sanchez.
Hooper was lucky not to be sent off when he hit Sanchez with an accidental high shoulder - with his replacement Domingo Miotti landing a penalty and the Pumas went 13-3 ahead when Bautista Delguy scored, with the Australians looking rattled.
A penalty on the stroke of halt time cut the margin to 13-6 before the team traded penalties early in the second half.
Reduced to 14 men when Salakaia-Loto was sent off, the Wallabies played their best when all seemed lost. It was much better but all too late.
When Hooper scored 14 minutes from the end, Hodge converted from near the sideline to level the scores but his last gasp penalty shot went wide as the Wallabies finished bottom of the Tri-Nations, won convincingly by New Zealand.
"I would have been very disappointed if we lost," Pumas coach Mario Ledesma said. "Because I thought we deserved to win."
STUNNING INDIGENOUS ANTHEM MOMENT
- Jamie Pandaram
Wallabies players sang the first half of the national anthem in indigenous language on Saturday night, marking a milestone occasion for Australian sports teams in recognising our history.
Each player, to a man sang, the words along with Newtown Performing Arts high school indigenous student Olivia Fox, having practised during the week for the historic moment at Parramatta's Bankwest Stadium before the final Test match of 2020, against Argentina.
In the same week years' old racist tweets emerged from Pumas players, resulting in the suspension of captain Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, this gesture of respect towards Australia's oldest race was an important, admirable step forward.
Wallabies player Dane Haylett-Petty had been slammed recently for suggesting players could take a knee during the anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He should have been applauded for bravery, and speaking up for those who for too long have been discriminated against.
Absolutely fantastic: every Wallabies player sung the first half of the national anthem in Indigenous language. Learned the words. Paid respect. A great step forward 🔴🟡⚫️ #AUSvARG pic.twitter.com/Efy91gIRt7— Jamie Pandaram (@JamiePandaram) December 5, 2020
That was very special @RugbyAU historic evening in Sydney as Olivia Fox,from Newtown High School of Performing Arts,sang the Australian National Anthem in Eora language & then in English, joined by the @wallabies wearing their First Nations jersey #AUSvARG #TriNations2020 #rugby pic.twitter.com/MBJRfzMTKe— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) December 5, 2020
However, this new idea of singing the first part of the anthem in indigenous tongue is even more powerful, because it is original, and can inspire other teams to follow suit without being engulfed in the controversies of a movement some like to believe only applies to the United States.
Under the tenure of new coach Dave Rennie, the Wallabies have openly embraced diversity. They have learned Fijian and Tongan songs in camp, and visited the National indigenous Centre for Excellence a number of times.
The debate around Australia's anthem, and growing calls to change lyrics that are offensive to our first people, has even earned the support of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently.
The second line of the anthem, "for we are young and free", is dismissive of indigenous people who have roamed Australian land for 60,000 years, compared to the "young" settlement of Europeans 250 years ago.
Australia's sports teams have been caught between wanting to show support, but fearing that any show of solidarity to indigenous people may bring about a fierce backlash from conservatives.
The Wallabies, on December 5, 2020, showed perfectly how it should be done.
A wonderful gesture. An astute mark of respect.
Australia's rugby players looked backwards to take society forward.
Originally published as Wallabies shock: Where to now after 'hollow' draw?