LONDON — He raged, he swore, he sarcastically applauded the match officials. He even became entangled in a verbal spat with an England fan.
If it was hard to take your eyes off the England-Australia rugby test at Twickenham on Saturday, the same could be said about Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s all-action performance up in the stands.
England coach Eddie Jones grabbed the headlines — and even earned a rebuke from his 93-year-old mother — for a foul-mouthed tirade during his team’s scrappy 21-8 win over Argentina last weekend. He vowed to be on his best behavior against Australia, and he was.
Instead, Cheika took center stage.
Never one to hide his emotions, Cheika unleashed a full array of them during a game in which Australia failed to get the rub of the green when it came to refereeing and TMO decisions and lost by a record 30-6.
“At the end of the day, that’s my own way of dealing with stuff,” Cheika said. “I like to get it out and get on with it. I’ve been able to do it and manage it. That’s my way.”
Cheika sarcastically laughed out loud and applauded when Australia had a try by captain Michael Hooper disallowed for offside midway through the first half.
He was angry when the same player was sin-binned following a collapsed maul on Australia’s line toward the end of the first half, with broadcasters picking up Cheika saying an expletive and then “cheats.”
Moments after the halftime whistle sounded and with his team having just been reduced to 13 players following a yellow card to Kurtley Beale, Cheika — “steaming” in his words — headed down to the steps toward pitchside to get some messages across to his team and responded to apparent verbal abuse from some spectators.
“There are plenty of fans giving me a gob full, I can assure you,” Cheika said. “And not nice, not pleasant. But that is the way it goes, the way it happens. I know when I walk down the stairs that I’m going to cop abuse but that’s the way she rolls.”
With England benefiting from two more marginal TMO calls in the second half, Cheika was seen with his head in his hands as the game slipped away. He later cut short a TV interview after being asked about being seen calling someone a cheat.
The Wallabies coach said he would not be speaking to World Rugby about the performance of the officials he was clearly so unhappy with.
“No, there’s no point,” he said. “Everybody watched it. No point … just deal with what we can deal with. If you have to go and make submissions about that kind of stuff, there’s no point going.”
Compared to Cheika, Jones was calmness personified as England re-established the pace and energy to its game that was lacking against Argentina, at least until Australia came back strong in the second half.
“I didn’t throw a pen today, I didn’t swear — I thought I would even up that with the other box,” Jones said, referring to Cheika’s antics. “My mother will be pleased, I don’t expect a phone call at 5 o’clock in the morning.”
Cheika’s mood will not have improved with the news that lock Adam Coleman and flanker Ned Hanigan are on their way home from Australia’s end-of-year European tour because of injuries.
Coleman failed a late fitness test on a thumb injury sustained in the 29-21 win over Wales last weekend, while Hanigan hurt his eye against England. Neither will recover in time to play in the Wallabies’ final tour match, against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80