When the Wallabies review their heartbreaking loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin, they will rue the missed opportunities in the second 20 minutes of the first half.
Leading 17-3, the Wallabies had the chance to post more points.
But from Tate McDermott being miraculously held up to the Wallabies losing a lineout throw following Carter Gordon’s 50-22 in the 36th minute for taking too long, the All Blacks should have been forced to come from much further behind.
International teams rarely get second chances against the All Blacks, even ones with as many first-choice stars missing. But the Wallabies simply didn’t take their opportunities.
Nonetheless, Saturday’s 23-20 defeat was an improved performance.
For the fourth time in as many Tests, the Wallabies scored a try inside the opening 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, the pace and ferocity with which they started the game drastically faded away the longer the match went on.
Nor did the Wallabies get the pay they wanted out of their bench, which was already depleted following injuries to Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou.
It meant Pone Fa’aumisili, who courageously battled on but realistically should not have, played too long because of the lack of trust in the developing Zane Nonggorr. That’s not a slight on him, it’s just that the 22-year-old is still a year or two away from being where he needs to be as an international tight-head prop.
Ultimately, however, the Wallabies had the chance to win the game but a horror moment from Quade Cooper, who spilt a slow, scrappy pass from Nic White, saw Jones’ men blow a four on two overlap out wide in the 77th minute.
Here are our player ratings from the three-point loss.
Andrew Kellaway – 7
Safe all night, Kellaway brings a calmness and maturity to the Wallabies’ backline.
He’s also got that knack of running on teammates’ shoulders and finding himself in space.
He timed his run in the first half beautifully to run onto Gordon’s offload.
Still one or two poor kicks, but let’s remember the versatile back is just two matches back from injury.
Mark Nawaqanitawase – 7
Yet another brilliant start from the rising 22-year-old.
The right-winger showed off his aerial ability several times in the first half, including a take and bat-back off two McDermott (first and 24th minutes) box kicks.
His linebreak in the seventh minute put the wheels in motion for the Wallabies’ second try, as he shrugged away Sam Cane (not many do that) and then managed to offload to Kellaway in Ardie Savea’s tackle.
The ball stayed away from Nawaqanitawase in the second half, but that had more to do with the Wallabies’ failures at the breakdown and the scrum.
Jordan Petaia – 5.5
A couple of lovely touches, including his nice kick to find touch five metres out in the 30th minute and a brilliant carry in the 50th minute, but there were also some mistakes around that.
He was fended away by Braydon Ennor in the 38th minute that resulted in a linebreak conceded.
Samu Kerevi – 5.5
The Wallabies’ centre is far from his best after last year’s ACL injury.
Jones will hope his star centre can find his form and fitness over the next month leading into their opener against Georgia.
While Kerevi gave the Wallabies a ball-running option in the midfield, he didn’t quite break the line nor dent it as we’ve become accustomed to.
Defensively, too, Kerevi struggled.
The penalty he gave away in the 10th minute was clumsy as he tackled a jumping Will Jordan in the air, but he was also burned a few times too.
He was turned inside out by Jordan in the 12th minute and then later by Damian McKenzie in the 38th minute.
Marika Koroibete – 5.5
Started the evening well by scoring in the third minute.
But he also dropped a Shaun Stevenson kick under little pressure in the 16th minute.
Busy on both sides of the ball, but defensively was caught out a couple of times too.
Carter Gordon – 5.5
Another step forward despite his match being far from the complete performance.
His decision to challenge the line and offload to Kellaway in the 20th minute continued the Wallabies’ early charge.
His sideline conversions meant the Wallabies took advantage of their early tries, while his 50-22 in the 36th minute was brilliantly taken.
But he also missed touch from a scrum penalty in the sixth minute and a penalty in the 60th minute too.
These are the little moments Gordon must eradicate from his game because there’s so much to like about his desire to take the game on both with ball-in-hand and defensively.
Tate McDermott – 6
Was at the heart of the Wallabies’ first-half surge, but the 86th man to captain his nation will also rue not diving with the ball out in front of him to score as he was held up over the line by Savea.
The missed chance came after the halfback turned down a shot at goals and went for the try.
In the 52nd minute, McDermott needed to get to the ruck to support the ball-carrier Nick Frost.
These are little things, but put together, they were the moments that cost the Wallabies.
Rob Valetini – 7.5
Great match from start to finish.
Valetini got a breakdown turnover win in the 10th minute and also managed to come away with the ball in the 15th minute after Gordon’s chop tackle.
Eleven strong runs for 47 metres and 16 tackles too.
Fraser McReight – 6.5
An improved shift from his performance against Argentina.
Against the Pumas, McReight was strong defensively but couldn’t get firmly on the ball.
Three weeks later and McReight was on it against the All Blacks. His penalty in the 34th minute showed he can bring his Super Rugby form into the international arena.
McReight offered good support play and was perhaps denied a certain try when Ennor knocked the ball on (it was missed by Karl Dickson) from McDermott’s pass midway through the first half.
Tom Hooper – 8
Like Valetini, Hooper rolled up the sleeves and had a whale of a match.
Hooper still has muscle to put on, but at 22 he’s still growing into his body.
But his work-rate and footy smarts are something that is exciting.
He began the night well with a carry in the first minute and then scored by running over McKenzie in the seventh minute.
Some strong work at the maul saw him win the Wallabies a scrum in the 47th minute, before he got on the ball in the 71st to win a penalty and allow Cooper to step up and level the score at 20-20.
Hooper topped the tackle count with 19, too.
Richie Arnold – 5
Strong at the lineout but was also pinged at the breakdown for not rolling away in the 42nd minute. These were the minutes that killed the Wallabies as the visitors gave away back-to-back penalties to start the second half.
Nick Frost – 6
A great run in the first half after running onto an Angus Bell offload inside his own 22 metre line.
But it was Frost’s lineout steal in the 68th minute that almost proved to be a decisive turning point.
While Frost was pinged at the breakdown for not releasing in the second half after a pick and go, he was busy all night and made 13 tackles too.
Pone Fa’amausili – 5
Overall, this was an important shift from the big Rebels front-rower. But that doesn’t mean it was perfect.
Early on Fa’amausili was excellent, running onto the ball and giving the Wallabies some gain-line momentum and dominance.
These were the elements of his game that have long excited Jones.
Even at the scrum, the Wallabies won two penalties inside the opening 20 minutes at the set-piece.
But a combination of injury and fatigue likely saw him fade away and he gave away several penalties.
His high shot on McKenzie allowed the All Blacks to get on the scoreboard.
He was unfortunate to give away a penalty for not rolling away in the opening seconds after a head knock and stinger in the process of making a tackle.
But two penalties at the scrum in the 62nd and 67th minutes hurt.
Dave Porecki – N/A
Replaced after 14 minutes with a shoulder injury, Porecki started well.
Angus Bell – 7.5
Another great shift, Bell’s feats are keeping Slipper out of the Wallabies’ starting XV – and it could mean the veteran doesn’t get the captaincy at the World Cup.
Bell carried the ball well in the first half, none better than when he roamed across the All Blacks’ defensive line and unleashed Frost.
But he was also prepared to make the tough carries early on.
At the scrum, he did the business too.
Matt Faessler – 7
One lineout was pinched in the 31st minute, but Faessler was top notch on debut.
Faessler nailed his core jobs just as he did all year for the Reds and he was busy in defence too, making several important tackles.
How much he gave away at the scrum will be something Jones considers, with Jordan Uelese valued at the area.
James Slipper – 4.5
After coming on in the 56th minute, Slipper was pinged immediately for not rolling away. It led to the All Blacks cutting the deficit to four points.
Zane Nonggorr – 4.5
Used sparingly off the bench, the All Blacks won the match-winning penalty from the scrum in the 79th minute.
One or two good carries in tight, but Nonngorr is no certainty for the World Cup.
Will Skelton – 6.5
After coming on in the 50th minute, Skelton had a great half-hour cameo.
He got through one maul like a knife through butter and also got on the ball in the 70th minute to be rewarded with a crucial breakdown penalty win.
Rob Leota – 4.5
A poor lineout transfer in the 61st minute compounded Gordon’s penalty miss.
Leota wasn’t able to provide the injection of explosiveness off the bench as he has over the previous two Tests.
Nic White – 4.5
Another frustrating night for the veteran halfback.
White wasn’t able to influence the match, while his pass wasn’t the best – albeit should have been taken – when Cooper spilt it at the death.
Quade Cooper – 4
A couple of nice involvements, including a 70th minute bootlaces tackle on a flying Jordan, and a hugely important long-range penalty to level up the score in the 73rd minute.
The decision to run the ball back in the 66th minute probably wasn’t the right one either, as the All Blacks got on the ball and Dickson rewarded Stevenson for his steal.
Ultimately, Cooper’s game rests on his fumble in the 77th minute with the Wallabies having a four-on-two overlap on the edge.
Izaia Perese – N/A
Came on very late for Kerevi, who was taken off with a hand injury.