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How Wallabies players rated against All Blacks

Bernard Foley, the so-called ‘Iceman,’ was clearly too chill for the liking of pedantic French referee Mathieu Raynal, but emerged from his comeback Test against New Zealand with plenty of credit in the bank.

You can only imagine what was going through Noah Lolesio’s mind when he watched Foley make an impressive and seamless return to the Test arena for the first time in three years – that decisive late call for time wasting that presented the All Blacks their victory aside.

Coach Dave Rennie had wanted a Quade Cooper-style impact from Foley and that’s what he got. Lolesio has his moments, but at 22 is still a work in progress. The big error that Foley made at the end was one you might expect from a youngster – then again Raynal came up with a decision that neither James Slipper or Sam Whitelock had ever encountered before, so it’s difficult to be harsh on him for being tardy with his penalty kick.

What the actual … The Roar experts Brett McKay, Harry Jones and Jim Tucker lose their minds over the Melbourne mugging in our Instant Reaction podcast

Foley landed six goals from six attempts, and ran the game in the second half as the Wallabies hit the front after trailling by 18 at one point.

“I thought he was sensational,” said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

“He controlled the game really well, his goal-kicking was exceptional. He’s just very confident, he gives a lot of confidence to people around him, has good energy and voice, a real positive mindset.

Bernard Foley of the Wallabies is tackled by Rieko Ionae of the All Blacks during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

“Down 31-13 it’s easy to start thinking it’s going to be a tough finish to the game but he kept encouraging us to play and play at the right part of the field. So yeah I thought he had a big game.”

Foley was excited to be back in the Test arena, although gutted by the devastating loss.

And if he was the clear choice of a “stocks rising” player from this game, then Lolesio’s stocks must have fallen at the same time.

“There were big question marks about whether he still had the juice to play at this level and he got better and better,” said Jim Tucker of Foley on The Roar Instant Reaction podcast.

“He had two lovely moments in the second half – that short pass to Kellaway getting through two big All Black forwards to able to throw that pass and then shortly after a long pass that hit Kellaway on the fly and he scores again.

“They were two classy touches. You could see him rising into the game and the chat that he was giving to a backline that was pieced together really, there were some really big moments.”

Brett McKay told the podcast he had doubted Foley’s ability to make an impact.

“I had huge question marks on him going into this game (but) he was clearly the biggest stock rising,” McKay said.

“The way that he absorbed the contest and got himself into the rhythm of Test match rugby again through the first half and then started picking his moments in the second half it’s what we’ve seen from the likes of Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.

“I can’t give Bernard Foley enough credit for that performance tonight, particularly that second half performance of his. It was absolutely phenomenal.”

‘He was outstanding’

Pete Samu made a rare start in the No.7 jersey and was superb.

“I think Pete Samu has been one of our best players even though he comes off the bench each week, he’s been outstanding,” said Rennie.

“We’ve talked a number of times about starting him, but his impact has been excellent off the bench.

“We just felt he was going to give us physicality, and he’s got a game both sides of the ball, he was outstanding.”

Harry Jones, speaking on the podcast, said: “He had quite a few hard on the ball moments. Samu showed that you want him on the park.

“He could match up with All Blacks. He has skill, athleticism, and he’s got that I want to get in your face and beat you spirit.”

Andrew Kellaway continued his strong form against the All Blacks, scoring his fifth try in four games against the Kiwis. He should probably have helped himself to a hat-trick, coming close to a first half try before his second half double.

Rennie smiled off a question about Kellaway making the No.15 jersey his own, and no wonder, considering the injury toll the coach continues to face.

“He’s a hell of a player, he’s got a real complete skill set and it was nice to see him in a bit of space today,” Rennie said.

“He wore the 15 tonight, he wore it well, chances are he’ll wear it again next week.”

Tucker raised Kellaway as a player whose stocks rose, praising his “safety factor”.

“He does something that’s really important as a fullback,” Tucker said. “He’ll catch a high kick in that first one or two metres like James O’Connor used to do when he was playing on the wing or fullback – he’d make a really strong one or two metres forward, enough time for the cavalry to get around him and save the situation.

“That’s a really important skill to have. And to have that amount of gas and timing when you’re coming into the line. We’re talking about two great tries, he should have scored three.”

No prizes for guessing the biggest dud

It’s rare for a team to lose and for it to be tough to name underperformers. However, replacement lock Darcy Swain continued his disappointing season on the wrong side of the laws when he was yellow carded a minute after coming on.

His tackle that buckled the leg of Quinn Tupaea angered NZ coach Ian Foster, while Harry Jones called it a clear red card offence. Swain already spent three weeks out of action after a red card against England in Perth this year.

“Darcy Swain has to stop that. It’s stupid,” said Jones.

“You’re already under the pump and then you do something that looks like you’re targeting someone’s knee. I don’t know if he was or wasn’t these are dynamic situations. But don’t develop a reputation because I think he’s starting to.”

Ultimately the good and bad performances from both sides will be overshadowed by one refereeing call.

Foster saw it as a clear and correct call. Not many others did.

“That was a referee who wanted to own the result himself,” said Tucker.

“No one in the All Blacks even considered that would be a penalty whistled their way. To their absolute credit the Wallabies refrained from blowing up deluxe. But I’m going to – it was the most ridiculous decision I’ve seen.

Referee Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Referee Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The Frenchman was a complete disgrace. That s just not what playing Test football is about. That decision is just absolutely ridiculous. And it’s just stuffed up a classic. That was a great Test match stuffed up by a Frenchman trying to put his name in a headline.”

Harry Jones was likewise fuming. “The refs are too famous in rugby – we know their names too much,” he said. “He stuffed it up. He should hang his head in shame. And I think he should never ref a big game.”

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