'A work in progress', Rennie reflects on Australia's almost season

SYDNEY (Reuters) - But for three errant Reece Hodge kicks, coach Dave Rennie would have been contemplating a very different first season in charge of Australia on Saturday night.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - European Champions Cup - Pool 2 - Sale Sharks v Glasgow Warriors - AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, Britain - January 18, 2020 Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington

If Hodge had converted late penalties in a draw against New Zealand and two against Argentina, the Wallabies would have headed into the off season with the Tri-Nations title and a record of four wins and two losses.

Rennie was not about to heap any blame on the shoulders of Hodge, usually only a long-range kicker for club and country, and said all three games should have been put to bed long before the versatile back approached the tee.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to win all of them,” the New Zealander said after the 16-16 draw with the Pumas at Western Sydney Stadium.

“All of those games shouldn’t have come down to a last-minute penalty attempt. We had opportunities tonight to convert and put a bit of scoreboard pressure on them.

“We’ve got to turn pressure into points.”

The result was a single win in six tests, albeit against the All Blacks, and the wooden spoon in the three-team tournament Australia hosted after South Africa withdrew from the Rugby Championship.

“We won one out of six, if you look at it from that perspective it’s disappointing,” he added. “But I guess we’ve got an understanding of where we’re at, the shifts we need to make and I look forward to seeing how these boys develop.”

Rennie has brought plenty of promising young talent into his squad and there was certainly more variety to the way Australia approached the game.

Weary Australian fans might have more sympathy for Rennie had Michael Cheika not spent the years between the last two World Cups talking about how his team was slowly coming together, only for it to crash out in the last eight in Japan.

“We’re a work in progress,” said Rennie. “We’re good men who have worked hard and come together well, but we need to see that reflected in performance.

“There’s no lack of heart and no lack of effort, but we’ve got to be way more clinical. Discipline was disappointing tonight and we made some dumb errors.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond