Wallabies keen on another crack at All Blacks
The Wallabies are taking a glass-half-full approach to their first-up Bledisloe Cup loss, eyeing a second chance to end their Eden Park hoodoo next weekend.
Australia was soundly beaten in Auckland at the weekend, trailing by 25 points before three late tries eased the scoreline to 33-25.
Noah Lolesio was unrecognisable from his heroics against France last month, landing just two from seven shots at goal on a blustery evening.
The 21-year-old was scathing of his own performance, telling Channel Nine he “couldn’t kick to save himself”.
But Lolesio’s goal-kicking woes were far from the only problem.
Four line-out failures to start the match gifted the All Blacks possession, and missed tackles might have cost the young Wallabies dearly if Ian Foster’s side were on point.
One game into the three-game series and the Rugby Championship yet to begin, Dave Rennie is focusing on the positives.
Andrew Kellaway scored the first try of the match, a superb runaway effort from a set-piece, and the Wallabies can claim momentum from the last three tries of the match – even if the contest was dead.
Given the fade-out in Sydney last year, when Australia limped to a 43-5 loss with the Bledisloe on the line, Rennie said Saturday represented an improvement.
“We finished strong,” he said.
“We’re really happy with the impact we got off the bench.
“Last year in Sydney we got behind a bit and we started throwing things out our backside and chasing the game early and we got absolutely hammered.
“So that was positive but we’re still pretty disappointed.”
Captain Michael Hooper agreed.
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“We’ve got plenty of heart, and we put them under pressure there at the end with different parts of our game,” he said.
“That’s pleasing. We’ve just got to do it for longer … we galvanised and started putting some nice things together.
“But it was too late to chase.”
Game two of the three-match series has been moved to Eden Park after New Zealand’s COVID-19 restrictions forced a series rejig.
That gives the All Blacks a chance to notch their 45th win on the bounce at their house of pain, and the Wallabies their first Test win at the venue since 1986.
Rennie will have a tough time at the selection table.
His bench performed strongly in the final 15 minutes, Lolesio’s output must be mulled, and he has five new faces available.
Marika Koroibete should return after his suspension for breaking curfew with Pone Fa’amausili and Isi Naisarani, while Nic White and Lachlan Swinton are expected to overcome injuries to contend.
Rennie supported Lolesio to bounce back, saying “you don’t go from an ace goalkicker to a novice overnight”.
He will name his Wallabies team on Thursday for the next game against the All Blacks.
Rennie will also hope any first-time Eden Park nerves for a number of his players have been kicked to the curb.
“Our mindset was ‘we’re going to get two cracks at it’ … what’s happened historically counts for nothing,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of young men who aren’t battle-scarred by the past.
“They aren’t too concerned about what Eden Park represents.
“They just go out there and play.”