Australia 18-19 New Zealand, Tri-Nations, August 22
Deans insists Wallabies will bounce back
August 23, 2009
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans casts an eye over his side ahead of their defeat in Sydney © Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is confident his side can bounce back from their latest Tri-Nations setback and that he is the man to lead the resurgence.
"I'm not going to go belly up if that's what you're asking," he said when quizzed about the mounting pressure from Wallabies fans.
Yet again, Deans' Wallabies surrendered a position of strength - a 15-6 lead with 30 minutes remaining - to the fast-finishing All Blacks, who won their fifth consecutive trans-Tasman test 19-18 here last night to seal the Bledisloe Cup with two matches to spare.
It followed a familiar script to their last Test in Auckland when the Wallabies faded in the final quarter, and gave All Blacks coach Graham Henry a 5-1 lead in the head-to-head contest with Deans. Deans felt his side - who made it three Tri-Nations defeats from three in 2009 - did not surrender as easily as in previous tests but were still learning composure as they brace for back-to-back home tests against South Africa in the next fortnight.
Wingers Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner hesitated with a Daniel Carter kick deep in their own territory and an Isaac Ross tackle led to Turner being penalised for not releasing, handing Carter his matchwinning penalty in the 78th minute.
"The most obvious difference is experience. They're masters at getting home and we're working hard at acquiring that art. We're making headway but we haven't acquired it yet, but I'm pretty confident we will," Deans said. "The expectations are just as high and the expectations of the group are high. If we continue to add to what we're doing we'll get there.
"I suspect with the amount of pain we're going through right now it'll be a habit we'll want to keep."
Fly-hlf Matt Giteau, who kicked six penalties from six attempts as the All Blacks were pinged for several breakdown offences, was also culpable in the dying seconds.
After the Wallabies turned the ball over they had one final attack he opted to spin it wide rather than snap a dropped goal. The All Blacks defence scrambled and prop Ben Alexander fumbled the final pass before the whistle sounded.
"I got the call and initially we were looking to spread it wide and thought we had numbers," said Giteau. "In hindsight I just should have just gone back in the pocket and looked for a field goal. It wasn't until the pass was made that I thought about it."
Deans said inside centre Berrick Barnes' second-half absence with a neck injury badly hampered his side and affected their kicking game. Barnes and teenage fullback James O'Connor (leg) were both cleared of serious injuries. But there are concerns over returning flanker Rocky Elsom, who has an ankle problem, and lock Nathan Sharpe (shoulder).
Deans and his side were greeted with negative headlines this morning as the Australian press sounded their disappointment.
"Blediswoe -- Heartbreak as All Blacks beat us on the bell," whined the Sunday Telegraph newspaper's lead sports headline against a backdrop of Ma'a Nonu's only try of the match.
Inside, Wallabies pivot Matt Giteau was the target for failing to line up a dropped goal in the desperate final seconds of the game. "It's just one more black night -- Giteau blunder adds to Aussies' misery," the headline said.
Former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack said the hosts were the better team but bemoaned "dumb rugby" which cost them dearly. "(Coach) Robbie Deans' frustration will come not from the effort, physicality or skills of his players but rather their inability to think clearly from minute one to 80," Slack wrote.
Sydney's Sun-Herald took a familiar approach on its front page; forget the losers and focus on a winner: Australia's new world discus champion Dani Samuels.
"Don't mention the rugby (pages 90, 91, if you must); forget about the cricket; meet our new world champion."
Daniel Carter's matchwinning penalty in the 78th minute handed the Wallabies a gut-wrenching defeat, said rugby writer Greg Growden.
"This was the most demoralising of losses for the Wallabies, as they led for most of the test, showed great courage and produced an exceptional defensive effort, but fell just short."
The Wallabies travelled to Perth today to prepare for the competition-leading Springboks in Perth next Saturday.