Wallabies coach Dave Rennie admitted his team were fortunate to conjure a miraculous win against France in their opening Test of the season, and said they have plenty of room for improvement.
Australia looked dead and buried as the clock ticked down to the final whistle in Brisbane on Wednesday evening before an amateurish mistake at the death by Les Bleus.
All debutant fullback Melvyn Jaminet had to do was boot the ball into touch from a lineout after the hooter sounded when they were leading 21-20.
But instead he threw a wild pass that handed Australia possession for one last attack, which culminated in a penalty that Noah Lolesio converted to win the game 23-21.
“There was a lot of character shown by the boys. We had a few opportunities at the end that we didn’t nail so was pleased to get the job done,” said New Zealander Rennie, who secured only his second win in seven games since being appointed.
“It’s Test footy and we’ve had a win so happy about that, but we know we can be a lot better.
“We’ve had three weeks where we’ve worked the boys pretty hard and it looked like a first Test performance, a little bit scratchy, a little bit of inaccuracy,” he added.
“If we can tidy that up we can apply more pressure and hopefully turn that into points.”
Those unforced errors – missed tackles, forward passes and turnovers – cost the Wallabies dearly in the opening stages when they slipped 15-0 behind against an inexperienced, but feisty, French team missing a host of regulars.
They tightened up their game in the second stanza with the bench injecting fresh energy, but it was far from convincing.
“We made a couple of errors early, one ball spat out of the scrum and they scored off it and the other one we got our defensive screen wrong and they scored off it,” admitted Rennie.
“But I thought we finished the first-half pretty strong . . . we started really well second half and we certainly created opportunities, we’ve just got to be better.”
France, playing just a day after coming out of two weeks of quarantine, will be fuming at their sloppy finish, but there were also plenty of positives for coach Fabien Galthie, who called it a learning experience for his young side.
“It’s a test of character, this tour,” he said of his inexperienced squad which includes a strong representation from the France teams that won the last two under-20 world titles.
“Apart from a match in Scotland two years ago, which we lost long before the end, all our [recent] defeats were played on almost the last action. It’s part of the game.
“We will move on,” he added. “We are looking to the next meeting. The path that awaits us, to go through it well, we will have to have this type of experience. It teaches us a lot.”
The two teams will now focus on recovery ahead of the second Test in Melbourne next Tuesday, where France will again be aiming for their first win in Australia since 1990.
The short turnaround, and a third Test back in Brisbane on July 17, is likely to see both coaches rotate their teams more than normal.