Melbourne Rebels’ utility, Reece Hodge, admitted it’s a case of what could’ve been following a dramatic 16-all draw in yesterday’s opening Bledisloe Test at Sky Stadium.
Coming off the bench in his 38th appearance in the green and gold, Hodge had the opportunity to enter Australian sporting folklore and snatch a classic Bledisloe win after the siren, with a dramatic 55-metre penalty kick.
Unfortunately, the notorious Wellington winds had other plans, taking a hold of his thunderous right-foot punt, with the ball drifting sharply from left to right, slamming into the post three-quarters of the way up, denying Australia a famous victory and Hodge the chance at Australian sporting immortality.
Hodge admitted he went through a sleepless night following the pulsating contest, and that despite the narrow miss, he struck the ball as well as he could’ve hoped.
“It was a bit of a broken sleep last night – I’ve probably replayed it hundreds of times by now,” said Hodge.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty swirly wind in Wellington and throughout the warm-up, they were going everywhere, left to right.
“I struck it just as well as I could’ve and was just praying when it was in the air - I was confident in the distance, obviously the wind was a different story.
“Anytime you get a chance and you feel confident, you think why not step up and have a crack. It’s part of my job and when it’s in my range, it’s something you’ve got to step up and do and have the confidence to try and knock it over.”
While still chasing their first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand in nineteen years, optimism is high for these new-look Wallabies.
Following yesterday's dramatic draw, Australian’s can now dare to dream of winning back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002, with the Wallabies needing to win two of the remaining three games against the All Blacks – two of which will be held back on home soil.
Hodge and his Australian teammates will now turn their attention to Sunday’s Second Test at Eden Park, in what looms as one of their biggest challenges of the 2020 Test Rugby Season.
“There’s no point focusing on the games in Australia at the moment; we’re purely focused on the game at Eden Park this weekend.
“It’s an historic game potentially for us and it’s a massive occasion, so there’s no point looking ahead.
“We’re purely focused on Auckland this week and all we can do as a squad to improve and we’re not celebrating a draw, we’re pretty keen to get the win next week.”
Despite playing at a venue in which the Wallabies haven’t tasted victory since 1986, Hodge believes anything’s possible should his side continue to build on its recent form, while also tightening its execution on attack.
“There’s a lot of good stuff to build on but I think our execution was lacking a little on a few occasions on attack and defence.”
“I think we handled that well on some occasions but on a few occasions, we were probably a bit loose on that defensively.
“We handled the ball quite well but weren’t just clinical enough once we got into that attacking territory and didn’t come away with points on a few occasions.
“When you play against the All Blacks or any Test team in the top tier these days, you have to come away with points anytime you’re in that twenty-two or attacking zone.
“I think we let them off the hook there and there were a few momentum swings off the back of a few errors from us in that attacking zone, so I think that will be a focus for us heading into next Sunday.”
The Wallabies face the All Blacks in the second Bledisloe Cup Test on Sunday, October 18 at Eden Park, Auckland. Kick-off is 2 pm (AEDT).