'Opportunity lost': Rennie, O'Connor explain decision not to slot field goal in Bledisloe classic

International
by Christy Doran

The Wallabies admit they let slip a golden opportunity to bang over a field goal, which would have seen them end a 19-year hoodoo against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

With the scores locked at 16-16, the Wallabies had six phases on the All Blacks' line after Reece Hodge's penalty attempt in the 83rd minute hit the right-hand upright and was collected by the visitors.

It seemed for all money that the Wallabies would attempt to keep the ball in tight and, if that didn't work, that they would attempt a drop goal from straight in front of the posts.

But after initially keeping the ball in tight, the Wallabies' structure broke down as Allan Alaalatoa on the fifth phase passed back to his halfback rather than carrying the ball forward.

At that point, playmaker James O'Connor ,who had dropped back in the pocket, was forced to come forward.

As he was tackled, the ball spat out the back of the ruck with thanks to a helping hand from All Blacks debutant Tupou Vaa'i on the ground, who should have been penalised for entering the ruck from the side, and as a result the Wallabies were forced to go wide through Marika Koroibete.

They never recovered, losing the ball two phases later at the breakdown as Ardie Savea and Sam Whitelock went hunting and stole it.

It was a coach-killing moment for new Dave Rennie in his first match in charge of the Wallabies.

"James O'Connor dropped back, but I'm not sure what happened there around communication but we ended up going a bit wider and turned it over; opportunity lost obviously," Rennie said in his post-match press conference.

O'Connor said that in hindsight they would have played the situation differently, but lamented the Wallabies' inability to seize the moment.

"Obviously we were still on the front-foot there," he told Australian reporters.

"Hindsight's a beautiful thing.

"So we were trying to play on top of them there, but as soon as it slowed down that was the call, to get the shape sorted, to sit in the pocket and put the drop goal over there. 

"I didn't really get to line up for it, that was the thing, we missed the trigger. We played a little bit too early.

"We're a new group, we've just come together, we've taken on a lot of detail in these last few weeks. I'm very proud of the intent the guys had, it's really stepped up, but in terms of detail there's a few things that we really need to work on and that will take us into next week really well, and that's one of them."

The 16-16 result was the first time since 1962 that a Wallabies-All Blacks Test had finished as a draw.

While the Wallabies would have shocked many by escaping without defeat, Rennie said his side weren't content with coming away only with a draw.

"We're disappointed," he said.

"We're certainly not celebrating in the change-rooms."

O'Connor refused to call the draw a missed opportunity, but said the Wallabies could take a number of positives out of the match given the rushed build-up to the Test.

"It's hard to say missed opportunity because I believe we delivered all that we could at that stage where we are," he said.

"You want to keep moving forward as a group and you've got to start somewhere.

"In saying that, there were a few details that we missed and after seeing how they were defending we'd like to play a little bit differently/

"But the guys fronted up and they really put their bodies on the line.

"The one thing that you can say is that we didn't miss fire, we probably almost overplayed our hand a little bit at times.

"The change-room was a mixed vibe because there's quite a few debutants and we're very proud of the way they performed and even their stories to get here, and also Hoops' 100th cap. It was an interesting game, the momentum shifted constantly, especially in that last eight minutes.

"Content probably isn't the correct word, we're very hungry, a lot of the guys would like to play tomorrow."

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