'Kickers don't lose you games, they win you games' : Wallabies rally behind Hodge after another shattering miss

Tri Nations
by Christy Doran

The Wallabies are rallying behind Reece Hodge after the goal-kicker once again missed another chance of winning a Test for his country on Saturday against the Pumas.

Having missed a matchwinning penalty a fortnight earlier against Los Pumas, as well as across the ditch in Bledisloe I in Wellington, Hodge was hoping it would be third time lucky.

But the 26-year-old pushed the penalty across the face of goals with 30 seconds left in the match, which meant the Wallabies had to settle for their third draw of the year, a frustrating 16-16 stalemate to finish the year.

Yet, as former Wallabies captain George Gregan said in commentary for Fox Sports, “The kickers win you games, they don’t lose you games. The Wallabies had many opportunities in that last 10-15 minutes to potentially set-up for a field goal and not rely upon the kicker.”

Indeed, they did but not for the first time they squandered countless opportunities to apply pressure through ill-discipline and poor handling.

“The kick he had tonight - and the other night - it’s not an easy kick, it’s a 50 metre hit, most guys can just reach that with their distance, so judging everything, wet ball tonight and whatnot, it’s just one of those kicks,” teammate James O’Connor told reporters following the draw.

“I feel for him. He’s had a couple of nail-biting ones this year.”

But O’Connor, who has won Tests for the Wallabies against the All Blacks in Hong Kong in 2010 and again in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against the Springboks with late goals, said they simply needed to be more clinical and find ways of ticking the scoreboard over.

“I do believe we should have been more on that scoreboard,” he said.

“We have to find a way to tick it over more. We had all the territory, we were attacking their line many times and we couldn’t quite tick it over, build that pressure, because once you do get that 3-6-9 then they start asking questions themselves.

“It’s a young group, we’re developing, we’re learning how to win on the run and how to play this style of attack. It’s been a huge learning curve. New coaches have come in and a completely new group of players but it’s exciting.”

The result meant the Wallabies finished the year with just one victory, two defats and three draws.

Even still O’Connor was positive about the direction the Wallabies were headed under first-year Test coach Dave Rennie.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Dave,” said O’Connor, who made his debut back in 2008 and has played under four Test coaches.

“He’s been a breath of fresh air.

“He’s a very controlled man, he just gets it, he understands footy very well and just the way he sees the game as well.

“We’ve spoken about the detail in terms of where we can go as this group. It’s hard because you guys don’t get to see the efforts that we put into training and how we’re making gains, and how guys are actually learning how to create an extra number, how to play the short-side so we’ve got two-side attack, how to run, where we build pressure and a lot of that has come from Dave and we haven’t quite reaped the awards of it yet but we’re almost using this game as a springboard.

“It’s one of the youngest groups we’ve had as Wallabies and there’s a lot of growth to come.”

Rennie, however, was far from satisfied following the draw.

Speaking at his post-match press conference, Rennie said he couldn’t fault the commitment but said results were talking.

"It's something we've talked a lot about, we've got to turn pressure into points," Rennie said.

"Having said that, they're a phenomenal defensive side and individually they tackle really well. We had our opportunities didn't we and they grabbed theirs as soon as they got them.

"We're a work in progress. We're good men who have worked hard and come together well, but, as I've said, we need to see that reflected in performance.

"There's no lack of heart and no lack of effort, but we've got to be way more clinical. Discipline was disappointing tonight and we made some dumb errors.

"We won one out of six, if you look at it from that perspective. It's disappointing, but I guess we've got an understanding of where we're at, the shifts we need to make and I look forward to seeing how these boys develop and apply pressure to us through Super Rugby."


'A LONG WAY TO GO': Rennie's blunt assessment of Wallabies following third draw of 2020

6 TESTS, 3 DRAWS: Hodge misses late matchwinner as Wallabies and Pumas play out another 'hollow' draw