Brisbane – Coach Dave Rennie insisted he wouldn't be getting carried away after his Wallabies stunned the All Blacks, but admitted to being excited by where he might take his new-look team.
In a major shock, Australia edged New Zealand 24-22 Saturday in a breathless Tri Nations clash at Brisbane, just a week after an embarrassing 43-5 bloodbath in Sydney.
It restored some credibility to a side widely flayed for its error-strewn Sydney performance, with Rennie's gamble on three debutants and moving Reece Hodge from his usual wing or fullback position to flyhalf playmaker paying off.
Australia had already lost the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year before Saturday, but managed to emerge from the four-game series with a win, a draw and two losses.
Rennie, who took over from Michael Cheika after last year's World Cup, said it was crushing to miss out again on the trans-Tasman trophy and that his squad must build on Saturday's win.
"What it tells us is that if we work hard enough for each other we can get results against anyone," he said.
"But it doesn't count for much unless we back it up against Argentina in a couple of weeks."
While the win doesn't paper over the cracks exposed in the past two tests, Rennie was encouraged by the debuts of winger Tom Wright, who scored a try with his first touch in international rugby, and Lachie Swinton, despite the hulking flanker being sent off for a high tackle.
"We're trying to grow our game. There's a lot of stuff we haven't had time to do because of the (COVID-19) situation, so (I'm) excited about where we can take this team," said Rennie.
"But we're not going to get carried away. It was a great performance, but we've got to keep building on that."
Young prop Angus Bell also made an impact off the bench in his first game.
"It's a good start for them and we expect that, we want to make that the norm," skipper Michael Hooper said of the newcomers.
"We make no bones about where we want to go as a team and those guys are going to be a big driving factor in that.
"So bottling that feeling and pushing each other and demanding more out of each other, which the young guys have brought and vice versa from the top-down, is going to be important to go where want to go."
Australian media was impressed, with the Sydney Morning Herald saying: "First win of new Wallabies era points to brighter future," while The Australian called the victory "one of the great turnarounds of Australian rugby."
The Wallabies have a one-week break before resuming Tri Nations action against Argentina while New Zealand must regroup to face the Pumas on Saturday in Sydney, their fifth Test since October 11.
Coach Ian Foster called the Brisbane defeat "messy", with the All Blacks also reduced to 14 men in the first half after Ofa Tu'ungafasi was red-carded for the same offense as Swinton.
"It's not nice losing. It was a game we still had a chance in over the last part," he told reporters.
"We just had to hold some composure, but we just gave up too many soft penalties really — one with a yellow card and another two or three to give kickable penalties.
"We've got to learn from that."
Captain Sam Cane credited Australia for showing more passion at a ground where they have traditionally done well. The Wallabies have now won their last seven Tests at Suncorp Stadium.
"It's a bit of a reality check. We'll have a hard look at ourselves and have to get a lot better next week," he said.
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