SYDNEY (Reuters) – But for Reece Hodge’s three wrong kicks, coach Dave Rennie will be contemplating a very different first season while in charge in Australia on Saturday night.
If Hodge converts late penalties against New Zealand and twice against Argentina, the Wallabies will enter the off season with a Tri-Nations title and a record of four wins and two defeats.
Rennie wouldn’t blame Hodge, usually just a long-range kicker for club and country, and said that all three games should have been postponed long before the versatile back nears the tee.
“We have put ourselves in a position to win everything,” said the New Zealander after the 16-16 draw with Pumas at Western Sydney Stadium.
“All those games shouldn’t end in a penalty attempt at the last minute. We had a chance tonight to change and put some pressure on the scoreboard.
“We have to turn the pressure into points.”
The result was one win in six tests, albeit against the All Blacks, and a wooden spoon in the three-team tournament that Australia hosted after South Africa withdrew from the Rugby Championship.
“We won one in six, if you look at it from that perspective it is disappointing,” he added. “But I think we understand where we are now, the changes we need to make and I look forward to seeing how this boy develops.”
Rennie has brought lots of promising young talent to his squad and there is certainly more variety in the way Australia approaches the game.
A tired Australian fan might have had more sympathy for Rennie had Michael Cheika not spent the years between the last two World Cups talking about how his team has slowly come together, only to be eliminated in the last eight in Japan.
“We’re in the process,” said Rennie. “We are good people who have worked hard and united well, but we need to see that reflected in the performance.
“There’s no lack of heart and no less effort, but we have to be more clinical. Discipline was disappointing tonight and we made some stupid mistakes. “
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond
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