Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley is still trying to process what transpired at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night, revealing there was a fair bit of confusion among his teammates before French referee Mathieu Raynal made the call that will go down in Bledisloe Cup history.
Foley fronted the media in Melbourne on Friday morning, the veteran playmaker only a few hours removed from the decision that will forever be aligned with his Test career.
With just over a minute left on the clock in Bledisloe I, Raynal awarded the Wallabies a penalty after Lalakai Foketi was able to get on the ball and isolate All Blacks hooker Dane Coles. But as the Wallabies forwards were engaged in a huddle, and Foley refrained from kicking for the touchline, Raynal blew a stop to play and awarded the All Blacks a scrum, from which Jordie Barrett would ultimately score a few phases later to snatch a 39-27 victory from the jaws of defeat.
With only a few short hours of sleep, the reality of what transpired at Marvel Stadium was still hitting home for the 33-year-old Foley.
“There’s still a bit of unknown or trying to digest the whole situation,” Foley said. “In saying that, it’s done now. We’ve got to try and move on and take it as it is.
“Just extremely proud of how the guys kept backing up through the game. It was a great arm wrestle and advertisement for Test match rugby. For the lads to stay in the fight and come back from that deficit and a couple of men in the bin… to have a chance to win it at the end was pretty incredible.”
Raynal had warned Australia about wasting time on a few occasions earlier in the match, one of which came when they were preparing a goal-line drop-out having held up the All Blacks.
But confusion reigned in the closing stages, as time was called off, and then back on, and Foketi, sensing Raynal might be about to punish the Wallabies, began to scream at his backline teammate to take the kick for the touchline.
“There was a bit of confusion just in terms of personnel on the field for us,” Foley said of the incident.
“Just trying to get a call, it was pretty loud in the stadium there with 55,000 people. My conversion with him [Raynal] was that he told me to hurry up but that time was off. He didn’t really mention that there was going to be further action.”
Unsurprisingly, both coaches saw the referee’s decision differently, with Wallabies boss Dave Rennie doing his best to play a diplomatic line but ultimately inferring that Raynal needed to show a bit more “feel” for the situation.
His All Blacks counterpart, Ian Foster, however, described the ruling as “clear cut”.
When asked about the All Blacks coach’s comments by the Sydney Morning Herald, Foley said he found them “disappointing” and that a simple “no comment” would have sufficed.
The All Blacks coach would add to his comments on Friday morning, continuing to side with the referee while pointing out the many times the referee had had communication with Foley around time wasting.
“When a ref warns a player two or three times and they don’t listen then you put everything in your own hands,” he told reporters on Friday.
“Let’s not forget all we won out of that was a scrum – we didn’t win the game. We won the game with our next play.
“Do you feel for them? ‘Course you do. It’s the first time that’s happened in some ways.
“That’s the nature of the beast. It’s nice being on the winning side of it.
“Overall in the match I feel we deserved to come out on the right side. We just did it the hard way.”
Australia must now pick themselves up for the return match in Auckland next week, at the Eden Park graveyard where they last won in 1986.
On the strength of his performance in Melbourne, Foley could retain his position at No. 10 even if Noah Lolesio is fit, but the Wallabies have injury concerns in both skipper James Slipper and back-rower Rob Leota, the latter highly unlikely to play after he was spotted on crutches after leaving the field in the first half.
Australia also have a judiciary hearing for Darcy Swain to confront, after the replacement lock was cited for an awkward cleanout that left Quinn Tupaea writhing in agony with Foster confirming the back suffered a ruptured medial ligament and a partial rupture of the ACL.
Whatever the case with injury and suspension may be, the Wallabies can only dust themselves off and look to replicate a performance that was full of heart — Rennie also praised the clinical edge his side showed in their stirring 18-point comeback — but one that fell short where it matters: on the scoreboard.
“There’s a lot to play for still,” Foley said. “It’s a bit disappointing and bittersweet that we’re not playing for trophies and championships. To go over there and win at Eden Park is a massive carrot for us as a team.
“It’s also a chance to build on what he laid down yesterday is something that is going to be really important for this squad. The guys will recover, take a few days to get the bodies right and then we’ll rip into the preparation.”