Samu Kerevi starred on return for the Wallabies. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP)
Samu Kerevi starred on return for the Wallabies. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP)

Kerevi back with a bang but problems persist

SAMU Kerevi's explosive comeback has cured the outside centre crisis yet Michael Cheika's erratic Wallabies have again proved they are masters of solving one problem only to be torpedoed by another.

Kerevi was a huge handful for the All Blacks in his 24-minute cameo in Yokohama on Saturday when he showed far more punch and direct running than whole halves of rugby played by the Wallabies this season.

Israel Folau was only nominally at No.13 in the 37-20 loss because winger Sefa Naivalu defended at outside centre so it was a patch-up job done well until Kerevi ran out any cobwebs after three months sidelined with injuries.

He showed none with seven runs for 34m, a piston-like fend that rocked All Black Anton Lienert-Brown, five tackle busts and a one-handed off-load as good as any he's thrown to put Folau over for a late try.

"Samu made a couple of really good line-breaks and carries for us and it's probably something we've missed over the last couple of months," Folau said.

"It's huge to have him back."

A big Scott Sio run in midfield, Naivalu's return, a much better Test from Marika Koroibete, one comeback run from flanker Jack Dempsey after a year out and Bernard Foley positives were plusses to go with far better re-setting in defence.

The defeat was still the ninth by a margin of 17 or more in the last 11 against our once-close rivals from New Zealand so don't be swayed too much by the nuggets of good, sustained play and several sharp individual displays.

The only pass mark left to jolt Wallabies fans into believing the pain of this 3-7 season equates to progress is a clean sweep in Europe next month against Wales, Italy and England.

Cheika's nemesis Eddie Jones will be waiting at Twickenham on November 24 with a 5-0 grin from past Tests against his mate and well-equipped to pressure advantages from the Wallabies' major problem of ill-discipline.

Hooker Tolu Latu's dumb yellow card for a chin-shove on All Black Codie Taylor only exemplified that the Wallabies are always playing with a handbrake on because they have finished ahead on the penalty count only once in 10 Tests this season.

That and a lineout operating at less than 80 per cent for the year, after yet another was lost on attack 22m out, may seem boring focus points but they kill positive Wallaby moments as much as pushed-pass turnovers like Folau's intercept gift to Ben Smith.


The Wallabies have plenty to work on ahead of their European tour. (AAP Image/Christopher Jue)
The Wallabies have plenty to work on ahead of their European tour. (AAP Image/Christopher Jue)


Prop Sekope Kepu was hurting after the loss but having his wife Anna and four kids in Yokohama made his 100th Test "very special" along with the traditional lolly necklaces for Tongan achievement from his mum and mother-in-law.

He was still the hard-marker on discipline that the Wallabies have to listen to.

"We set ourselves some targets this year, we let ourselves down here (11-5 on penalties) and we need to be better on this tour because it puts pressure on," Kepu said.

"Tolu is obviously disappointed in himself and I'm sure he's going to learn from it but we're onto a bigger picture now and we've got to tidy that stuff up."

The Wallabies were sunk by a cumulative 26-0 in the five minutes either side of half-time in the Bledisloe Cup Tests in Sydney and Auckland so the Cheika focus there was a win at 7-0.

The extra workrate to get in position in defence paid off but 17 turnovers ceded the All Blacks too many brilliant scrum platforms to work wonders like the Beauden Barrett switch-play try.

Barrett's 10 tries in 15 Tests against the Wallabies is a remarkable slaying above even the strikerate of the late Jonah Lomu (six in 13 Tests).

Two steps ahead, one-and-a-half steps back. At least, with Kerevi there the Wallabies are no longer running sideways.

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