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Rugby Championship
No regrets after Wallabies' near miss
August 17, 2014
Australia 12-12 New Zealand (video available in Australia only)

In a hypothetical world, the Wallabies might have woken up on Sunday morning with one hand on the Bledisloe Cup had their rookie captain taken a slightly more conservative and conventional approach in the series opener.

But coach Ewen McKenzie said he had no problems with Michael Hooper's decision to thrice spurn shots at goal from in front of the posts during Saturday night's 12-12 draw with the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium.

With Australia trailing their trans-Tasman rivals 9-3 in the shadows of half-time, Hooper opted for scrums on two occasions as the Wallabies attacked New Zealand's try line - the second time after the All Blacks were a player short with prop Wyatt Crockett in the sin bin.

We didn't take our chances - McKenzie
%]

When Hooper, 22, did elect for a shot goal after the All Blacks infringed yet again after the half-time siren sounded, Kurtley Beale struck the right-hand upright for his only miss of the night to leave the Wallabies down by six points at the break. Armchair critics after the game wondered what might have been had Hooper - the Wallabies' youngest captain in 53 years - accepted the invitation for a gift three points. Not McKenzie.

"You appoint game leaders to manage the game. They're out there feeling it, so I back what goes on," he said. "I send messages and the like but you don't get to control it from the coach's box. We talk about things [pre-game] and what we want to do and what we did say was that we want to go out there and take a few risks and we want to up the tempo."

Hooper, who said he consulted vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper before twice turning down attempts at goal, had no regrets with his decisions to push for a try.

"We felt like we started to get the upper hand," he said. "They had a [yellow] card. I felt we could get the ascendancy there. Different things could have happened. If you can get that try there, it's a whole different game."

Ironically, Hooper admitted he was hoping 40 minutes later that the referee would award the Wallabies a penalty that would allow them a shot at goal to win the match.

"It feels a bit like a loss," he said. "To get that pressure there in the end, get the chance, but not come out on top."

McKenzie was disappointed too, knowing the Wallabies must now topple the All Blacks at Eden Park for the first time since 1986 next Saturday and then again in Brisbane to wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup.

"All our preparation is about winning. We don't go out there to have draws, so it is a bit of a hollow outcome in that sense," McKenzie said. "We narrowed the scoreline, but we haven't beaten them. For us to win the Bledisloe, we have to win two games, so for us the equation hasn't changed."

The Wallabies were left dejected following their draw to the All Blacks © Getty Images
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