Wallaby Reece Hodge couldn’t sleep on Sunday as he contemplated what might have been after his long-distance, last-gasp penalty kick to break a 19-year winning drought in New Zealand against the All Blacks hit the post in the heartbreaking 16-16 Bledisloe Cup draw.
Big boot Hodge, who came off the bench late in the second-half, had the chance to win the game for the Wallabies after the siren with a 55-metre penalty.
As expected, Hodge had no trouble with the distance, but his direction was ever so slightly off, with the ball slamming into the post three-quarters of the way up, and bouncing back in to play.
It lead to a frantic extra eight minutes as both teams tried to get a knock-out blow before it finally finished all square, with the Wallabies still searching for their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
“It was a bit of a broken sleep last night,” Hodge said.
“I’ve probably replayed it hundreds of times by now.”
💛💚 Almost the result we were after. Can’t wait to go again next week! #Wallabies #BledisloeCup #NZLvAUS pic.twitter.com/J7wLF0Ghkz
The 26-year-old Rebels utility back had no hesitation in putting his hand up to take the kick, and he sought the advice of Wallabies flyhalf James O’Connor, who had a tough day with the boot in wet and windy conditions, kicking two from five.
Reece Hodge unleashes with a 55-metre penalty that hit the post in Australia’s 16-16 draw with New Zealand. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“He said the wind was a little bit left to right, but you can’t really trust it too much in Wellington so just aim inside the left post,” Hodge said.
“It turns out just outside the left post would have been better, but I struck it as well as I could have and was just praying when it was in the air.
“I was pretty confident in the distance. The wind was a different story, Any time you get the chance you feel confident.
“Why not step up and have a crack? It’s part of my job, I guess. When it’s in my range, you’ve just got to step up and do, and have the confidence to try to knock it over.”
So when the kick missed, Hodge felt disappointed in himself.
“All the boys were very supportive … (but) when you have a chance to win the game and it doesn’t come off, you tend to beat yourself up a little bit no matter where the kick’s from,” he said.
“I was probably lucky in my case that it was a draw, and not to go from a loss to a win.
“Coming into the match we had to win three of the four Bledisloe (Tests) to regain the Cup, and now with the draw, we have to win two out of the next three.
“For us and for me, the silver lining is we’ve still got that shot in the coming weeks.”
The All Blacks host the Wallabies on Sunday at Eden Park in Auckland, with Hodge saying he would “absolutely” step forward to take the kick if the same situation occurred.
“Disappointment will hopefully turn to excitement and anticipation ahead of game two on Sunday,” he said.
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