The Wallabies have been cast as dumb and dumber following another deflating defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.
An exasperated Michael Cheika lashed Tolu Latu for his brain-snap slap in the face of All Blacks counterpart Cody Taylor that reduced Australia to 14 men for 10 crucial minutes in the second half.
But the replacement hooker wasn’t the only player in the coach’s firing line after an afternoon of missed opportunities in Yokohama on Saturday.
Cheika conceded referee Romain Poite had little option but to yellow card Latu and the All Blacks were quick to punish the Wallabies with the knockout blow minutes later in the 37-20 victory at Nissan Stadium.
Latu’s sanction came after he’d been baited by Taylor, who pushed him in the chest.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen summed up the incident best in a brutal post-script to an entertaining clash before a crowd of 46,143 fans at Japan’s venue for the 2019 World Cup final.
“Pretty dumb,” Hansen said.
“It was a lot about nothing really but the ref has done what the law said because, if he didn’t, he’d have been tuned up himself (by his superiors).”
Trailing 27-13 and still hanging in the fight, the Wallabies lost all hope with Latu’s dismissal.
“He shouldn’t do it because you know if they push us and he pushes back, he should know it’s going to come back and get us,” Cheika said.
“I understand he wants to stand up for himself and you should be able to do that but not in that manner … and it didn’t achieve anything. Simple.”
But while Cheika seethed about Latu’s ill-discipline, he was equally annoyed with the rest of the Wallabies’ lamentable decision-making and inability to retain the ball – half the battle in rugby.
“There were too many turnovers in key moments just giving them the ball” Cheika said while digesting a horror 3-0 Bledisloe Cup series whitewash.
“We need to have a bit more perseverance and not just try to hit the home run in the first play (in possession).
“Whatever we need to get done before we meet them again, we will.”
The Wallabies will spend another week in Japan before heading further north for a three-Test tour to play England, Italy and Wales.
After just three wins from 10 Tests so far in 2018, Cheika is demanding improvements and is confident the Wallabies will be peaking for their return to Japan for next year’s World Cup.
“I care a lot. I care about my team, my players. I care about rugby in Australia and one thing that comes with care is fight,” he said.
“So whatever is necessary, we’ll get it done.”