The Wallabies have praised Bernard Foley after he led the way in a superb fightback in their narrow defeat to the All Blacks in last Thursday’s Bledisloe Cup Test in Melbourne.
Foley has come in for criticism in some quarters after referee Mathieu Raynal penalised him for wasting time when kicking for touch from a penalty during the latter stages of that match. The All Blacks scored off the resulting scrum to retain the Bledisloe Cup with a narrow 39-37 victory.
However, the fly-half was at the forefront of Australia‘s comeback after the All Blacks had raced into a 31-13 lead after 54 minutes. Foley set up Andrew Kellaway for two tries and slotted both conversions and another one after Pete Samu scored a try in the game’s closing stages.
Full of praise for Foley
Although they could not hold on for the win, Foley’s Wallabies team-mates Allan Alaalatoa and Lalakai Foketi hailed the experienced playmaker’s calming nature which kept their team in the contest until the game’s final moments.
“I just remember the time when it was 31-13 and we’re under the sticks and ‘Nard (Foley) just came in and calmed the boys down, he was awesome in that moment,” Alaalatoa told reporters.
“We didn’t want to steer away from our game plan. We wanted to take it to them and have that belief and I think that moment was huge for us because it was (a) turning point. Having that calm, experience message was awesome.
“He was just saying to keep having that belief, not go out from our game plan and not go from our system and try and pull something out of our arse. The boys stuck to the game plan and really gave us an opportunity to win.”
“Being out there, there was no feeling of disbelief or thought the All Blacks were going to run away with it,” Foketi interjected.
“It was just the belief and the leaders, especially ‘Nard coming in, staying controlled and giving us our next role. I felt like we were still in good stead to keep doing what we’re doing and keep in the game.”
Although their defeat in Melbourne means that Autralia have lost the Bledisloe Cup for the 20th successive year, there is another statistic which they are determined to change.
The Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park since 1986, losing their last 22 Tests.
Although Alaalatoa expects the New Zealanders to be highly motivated for the fixture with the Rugby Championship title up for grabs, he said they will also be up for the challenge.
“It’s huge. That’s why you want to play, to be involved in these big games,” he said.
“The All Blacks look at Eden Park as their fortress and they’ll be confident off the back of back-to-back wins.
“Playing at home, there’s that expectation from the home crowd to get the win. When you’re the opposition team, that’s the games you want to be a part of.
“It’s a huge motivating factor for us. We just have to nail our detail and how we want to play and channel everything into Saturday.”