Cheika on his team's 'auto-correct button'

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 19:04
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REACTION: Australia coach Michael Cheika hailed wing Reece Hodge after a 37-20 victory in Argentina this weekend secured second place in the Rugby Championship behind New Zealand.

The 23-year-old Melbourne Rebels flyer scored two tries, had another disallowed because of a forward pass, and played a role in two other scores in western city Mendoza.

"He was very good," Cheika said of Hodge after a strong last-quarter showing brought the Wallabies 17 unanswered points at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

"Reece is a very consistent player and got a few opportunities. Some of the moves were around him and he was able to finish.

"His defence was good as well. Reece is a good lad and he has still got plenty to offer. I was very happy with him."

While satisfied with his performance in the final match of the Southern Hemisphere championship season, Hodge lamented some defensive slips.

"I guess it was good to get involved a bit more, but I am a bit upset over a few errors that I made," he told reporters in the city at the foothills of the Andes mountains.

"There were a couple of tackles I missed and there is plenty for us to improve on before the Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane."

Australia host New Zealand on October 21 in the final match of the annual Trans-Tasman series having lost heavily in Sydney and narrowly in Dunedin.

Cheika backed goal-kicker and flyhalf Bernard Foley, who missed four consecutive kicks during the defeat of a Pumas side reduced to 14 men for the final 10 minutes by a yellow card.

Foley entered the match having succeeded with 18 Wallaby goal kicks in a row and scored from his first opportunity, a close-range penalty on 15 minutes.

He then fluffed four consecutive shots at the posts before slotting four kicks on the spin for a 17-point match tally as he also notched a second-half try.

"Bernard has an auto-correct button," Cheika said. "He has days where that happens to him and he wants to fix things.

"I believe I have picked Bernard for nearly every match where I have been in charge of the team.

"I have total faith in him no matter what. It would never enter my head to change goal-kickers," was his ringing endorsement of the playmaker.

Foley finished the Rugby Championship season as the leading individual scorer with 80 points - 10 more than All Black fly-half Beauden Barrett.

Wallabies skipper and flanker Michael Hooper said it was a real battle trying to contain the Pumas until the visitors got on top in the final 20 minutes.

"Argentina turned up for a really big arm wrestle and that is what happened until the closing stages," he said.

"For an hour, it was a really hard game to be involved in, especially after our tough travel schedule.

The Wallabies arrived in Argentina having drawn 27-27 in South Africa last weekend.

"I am really proud that this young team has come to Argentina and got the win in a tough environment."

New Zealand finished with 28 points after a thrilling 25-24 triumph over fired-up South Africa in Cape Town.

Australia amassed 15 points, South Africa 14 and Argentina ended pointless for the first time since entering the Championship in 2012.

Agence France-Presse

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