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‘Just as well he didn’t break his neck’

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AUSTRALIA may have rediscovered their pride in the Wallabies but gutted coach Michael Cheika was far from a beaming coach, railing against perceived injustices from match officials in Dunedin and rejecting “the gallant loser thing”.

Coming so close to a first win in New Zealand in 17 years and letting the Bledisloe Cup go for a 15th time only heightened the pain for the Wallabies and Cheika’s release valve was to question some of the referee’s decisions in the tight match.

Cheika was particularly riled about a first-half incident where All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick appeared to tip flanker Ned Hanigan on his head when the pair were tangled up after a ruck.

The match officials called on the TMO to look at the incident but poor and distant camera angles weren’t conclusive. Referee Nigel Owens decided the incident had been accidental and declined to punish Rettalick.

After saying a “script had been written” in an on-field interview, Cheika was asked if he’d felt harshly treated by the referees.

“I have to tread lightly here. Number one I can say because it was clear to everyone is Rettalick has picked one of our blokes up and put him on his head,” Cheika said.

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“Categorically. He has his arm through his leg and picked him up. And it’s a free pass. The guy can’t end up on his head any other way but then it’s a freebie. Just as well he didn’t break his neck.”

Cheika also believed the Wallabies were on the end of tough calls that allowed the All Blacks to keep Australia pinned in their territory, although it must be said the Wallabies got some friendly calls as well around disallowed Kiwi tries.

Michael Cheika was fuming after the loss.

“I was just surprised at some of them, you know,” Cheika said.

“It’s irrelevant if it was fair or not because that’s the way it was officiated. And any one of that stuff does not in any way excuse not finishing that game off, with three minutes to go and a kick-off to us.

“I don’t want it taken that way. But there were some calls last year in Auckland and we have been hit again here. I suppose it is just disappointing.”

The Wallabies went into the game massive underdogs and almost pulled off a miraculous first win in New Zealand in 17 years.

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After last week’s performance, it was a dramatic lift in spirits for Australian rugby fans but Cheika and captain Michael Hooper weren’t in the mood to laud the positives.

“I am always proud and pleased with the team. Even last week when it was harder to be proud,” Cheika said.

“Because I see what they’re doing off the field. I know chaps are throwing eggs and bombs and everything our way, that’s the way she rolls. It’s all good.

“But the gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it.”

Hooper echoed his coach’s words.

“I was proud of the way we bounced back this week during training,” Hooper said.

Referee Wayne Barnes was in Cheika’s crosshairs.

“But I am not happy with the result. It still shows an L next to the scoresheet. We came here to win, we had confidence we were going to win and we didn’t get that. So we are disappointed.”

Asked why he was angry after one of the most encouraging Wallabies performances in New Zealand in a long time, Cheika said: “I am not angry. I am just very, very disappointed because I felt like we did enough to win the game.”

The sting was made all the more painful, Cheika said, because the Wallabies wanted to win the game for their Australian supporters after a very tough year.

“With everything that has been going on, we are very aware that we wanted to win so badly for Australian rugby tonight, not just for us, for rugby over there, to give people a smile on their face around the game,” Cheika said.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the Wallabies would be disappointed “because they could have very easily won that game.

Asked whether the Aussies had turned a corner – as Mick Byrne predicted would happen – Hansen said he never believed they were a bad side.

“I am not sure I would say they had turned a corner because I don’t think they needed to,” the All Blacks coach said.

“Last week they played, probably most of them, their first game in four or five weeks. That’s really hard when you put them against a group that are battle-hardened and have gone through finals football. And the intensity of that allows you to play at a level.

“They finished off the game well last week and got some confidence out of that and they’ve come into this week and played well again.”

Source: sports dailytelegraph

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