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Wallabies skipper praise side's belief and maturity

Michael Hooper is tackled by Lima Sopoaga of the All Blacks.
Michael Hooper is tackled by Lima Sopoaga of the All Blacks. DAN PELED

VICTORIOUS Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper praised the new maturity and belief in his side to grab the key moments to turn the tide of history against the All Blacks.

Hooper backed the fresh polish of his troops more than anyone when he waved away a certain three points from a penalty in front midway through the second half to back a kick to touch for a lineout play.

The Wallabies had scored 22 of their 39 tries of 2017 before this Test from lineout triggers.

Hooper wanted to back a telling try-play rather than a nudge at penalty goal, even in the slippery conditions at Suncorp Stadium, and it paid off big time with the Marika Koroibete try and a 17-13 lead.

"I thought the way to beat these guys was to do something they didn't expect because you kick a penalty goal, they kick it deep and you are under pressure. It paid off because guys believed in the system," Hooper said.

On Test eve, Hooper had specifically mentioned the growth in the side to get the fine detail right, with their plays as the game advanced, since the sides last met "an eternity ago" in Dunedin.

It was clearly evident in the tidying up after half-time at the ruck. The inaccurate cleaning out and turnover malady of the first half became sharper, quicker ball to halfback Will Genia in the second half when the rain abated.

When All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane dived over to close the gap to 20-18 with 10 minutes to play the mettle of the Wallabies was tested most of all. The players stepped up.

"It's an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride in guys like (replacement) Lukhan Tui to catch that kick-off at the back end of the game," Hooper said.

"You look at the second Test (in Dunedin) too and it's come down to those last sort of moments.

"I'm really happy for the young guys to have a taste of what that (winning the big moments) looks like after a good week of preparation leading into the game."

It was a pinpoint Kiwi kick-off that was fumbled in Dunedin that let the All Blacks have their final possession for a 35-29 escape. Not at Suncorp Stadium.

Hooking stalwart Stephen Moore played the final 20 minutes off the bench, his final minutes as a Test player on Australian soil before next month's retirement after 13 seasons in the gold jersey.

He helped sustain the intensity right to full-time and Hooper's salute to a mentor and teammate was from the heart.  

"It was a special moment for me seeing Steve up there with his family (for a post-Test presenation) in his home Test after playing a great opponent of ours," Hooper said. 

"He's a legend of the game in Australia and a mentor for all our players."

This was no dead rubber. You don't thump as hard as All Blacks reserve Ofa Tu'ungafasi hit Bernard Foley when nothing is at stake.

"They were physical. We copped as much as we gave them," Cheika said.

"That's the way the game should be played and I enjoyed the way our boys got off the ground and back into it."

Cheika cracked a broad grin on the Foley moment: "I'd just prefer our 90kg backs don't run down those inside channels because they got dealt with accordingly...bad luck for them."

Cheika said lock Rob Simmons was having scans on his neck but stressed he had full movement after he "lost a bit of feeling straight away."

"He said he was embarrassed to come off on a stretcher but he shouldn't be because he put his body on the line," Cheika said.

"I'm obviously very happy for the reward this win is for the players who have worked hard.

"As enjoyable as it is the disappointment of not winning the Cup still resonates with me.

"We're certainly not going to be blowing any trumpets. We do have to keep it in context (after Aussie Super Rugby sides went 0-26 against Kiwi sides and the the opening two Bledisloe Tests were lost).

"An improving mindset is important (as a gain) for our players and wanting to working hard, wanting to be fitter and wanting to do all those things people don't see."

Topics:  all blacks bledisloe cup michael hooper suncorp stadium wallabies

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