Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he never lost belief in his team through their determined World Cup final performance.
The Wallabies had cut the margin to just four points midway through the second half before a Dan Carter drop goal and a scrum penalty minutes later put the margin beyond a single score.
“I felt that 40 minutes was enough time. Even after they scored ( in the second half), I felt 30 minutes, 35 minutes was enough time to claw our way back into the contest and change the momentum of the game,” he said.
“Which we did at 21-17, with I don’t even know how long it was to go.
“And then even when it got seven points behind, you get a try there, you can take the game into extra time, you’ve still got time to, so we were right back in the hunt in the second half.
Cheika said his side’s character, much-lauded through this tournament, showed through in the way they responded to the challenge.
“I thought we could have easily gone home then, we could have been happy, everyone had a good campaign and we could‘ve easily said, ‘okay we’re sweet,’,” he said.
“That they didn’t want to do that (give up) and they wanted to stay in the battle until the end (was pleasing), which I thought we did.
“There’s not much more I could’ve asked them to do and we came pretty close tonight.
“We swung the momentum back our way, even though the first half didn’t go our way and bounce of the ball here or there, a call here or there could’ve been a bit closer.”
Cheika reiterated his pride in his side for its improvement each week, on and off the field, since he came on board last year.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve handled things,” he said.
“I think we’ve been really honest about the way we’ve done things both on and off the field.
“We’ve really enjoyed it and tried to improve over the whole tournament so we can improve our rugby as a whole.
“It came pretty quick for us as a group but we tried to make the best of it where we (could).”
Cheika said the Wallabies’ focus on improvement would not waver after the World Cup final.
“You just stay at it and keep trying to improve and keep testing yourself again,” he said.
“We’re lucky that we get to play them regularly in the Rugby Championship, so we can keep trying to improve.
“You’ve got to mark yourself against the best.
“They’ve been number one for a while. I think we’ve made good ground over the last 12 months in that area.
“We’ve got to keep growing.”
Both Cheika and captain Stephen Moore acknowledged the significance of the support from Australian fans in London and back in Australia, thanking the public for their support of the campaign.