Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has hailed his side’s strenuous Autumn Nations Series campaign as a success after they launched a stunning fightback to beat Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Despite trailing 34-13 midway through the second half, Australia held their nerve to score 26 unanswered points during the game’s final quarter which sealed an epic victory.
A brace of tries from Mark Nawaqanitawase and another five-pointer in the game’s closing stages from Lachlan Lonergan got the job done for the Wallabies after Folau Fainga’a had crossed the whitewash during the opening half.
It was a remarkable result as the visitors had their backs to the wall after losing their captain James Slipper to a head knock at half-time and they were reduced to 13 men early in the second half when Jake Gordon and Fainga’a were both in the sin bin.
But they did not panic and fought back bravely to clinch only their second win on their five-match tour. They kicked off their campaign with a one-point victory over Scotland before suffering narrow defeats to France, Italy and Ireland.
“It’s good for our group. We lost three on the bounce by close scores and all games we could have won,” Rennie told reporters.
“We could have been going home with five victories or no victories. Our supporters have been put through the ringer with us, so it’s nice to get a result.”
Due to a combination of injuries and poor form, Rennie was constantly changing his team throughout the year and when Sam Talakai came on as a replacement prop during the latter stages of the Wales Test it meant Rennie had used 51 players in 14 Tests, which is the most used during a year.
Rennie feels the European tour offered priceless experience for the Wallabies with the World Cup in France being less than a year away.
“The time over here has been good for our group, for the belief, for the hard work,” he said.
Nawaqanitawase and Lonergan were the two heroes during the comeback against Wales and the replacement hooker couldn’t hide his delight after the match.
“Pretty stoked,” Lonergan said.
“We were in the trenches there in the first half. At half-time we came together and said ‘we need to get a result’.
Did for their country
“Obviously our captain went down with that head knock. So as a team, we said we had to do it for him, our country, do it for Australia.”
Nawaqanitawase was happy that he could play his part with his crucial tries which kickstarted his team’s fightback.
“As you can see by the other games, we’ve only lost by a point to the top teams so don’t lose faith in us,” he said.
“We’ve got a strong team here. We back ourselves so hopefully everyone else backs us as well.”
READ MORE: Autumn Nations Series: Wales left stunned as Australia produce outstanding comeback
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