‘Half-time scores costly’ – Cheika

Date published: October 31 2015

Wallaby Michael Cheika admitted New Zealand's ability to step up before and after half-time was huge in their World Cup final victory at Twickenham.

Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu scored either side of the break as New Zealand turned a 9-3 lead into an unassailable 21-3 advantage on their way to a third World Cup win.

The Wallabies fought back, with tries from David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani, but after getting back to within four points, Dan Carter slotted a drop goal and then a penalty, before Beauden Barrett's late try sealed the win.

And Cheika felt it was the All Blacks' ability to step it up in the key moments that proved the difference.

"They are very good before and after half-time, they got the tries," said Cheika. 

"But I thought 30 minutes was time for us to claw our way back into the contest. We did that. It was 21-17, even when it got seven points behind you get a try there you can take it into extra-time. 

"We got right back in the hunt. We could have gone home then but the heart and the courage in the team, I believe it's been built in this team. They didn't want to do that and decided they wanted to stay in the battle until the end which they did.

"The drop goal of Dan Carter didn't hurt us, it was well set up.

"The scrum penalty afterwards was a bit surprising. In the one we got pushed around we had a problem in the back five. But that one was painful and it took it out to ten which made it very difficult for us.

"Unfortunately we came up short in the end because the goal wasn't to reach the World Cup final, it was to win. You have to get people to believe in you. It's the mental side of things that we've really improved."

Having been in the job for just a year, Cheika was proud of his team, but also intends for Australia to continue to close the gap on the All Blacks.

"You've got to stay at it and keep trying to improve," he added.

"We're lucky that we get to play them regularly in the Rugby Championship. You've got to mark yourself against the best. I think we've made good ground in that area.

"A lot of guys at this part of the tournament. I said to them, don't be counting down. I said we're just starting. We want to do really good things for Australian rugby going forward."