Rugby-Maddening inconsistency continues to haunt Wallabies

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Autumn International - Scotland v Australia - BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Britain - November 7, 2021 Australia head coach Dave Rennie during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia had a perfect opportunity to make a big statement in their final match of the Rugby Championship on Saturday by becoming the first team to beat New Zealand at Eden Park since 1994.

Improving on last week's controversial 39-37 loss to their neighbours in Melbourne would not have been enough to win the championship, but it would have given them something solid to build on in the run-up to next year's World Cup.

Their ambitions lasted only a couple of minutes before being firmly buried under yellow cards, penalties, handling errors and missed tackles as the All Blacks ran out 40-14 winners.

"We got shaded in all areas and that's the result," coach Dave Rennie told reporters in Auckland.

"We didn't have ball down their end. We lost collisions. We fell off way too many tackles. We turned over too much ball.

"As a group, it's not good enough."

A week after probably the best performance of his three-year reign, Rennie was again left grim-faced as his team slumped to a sixth loss in nine matches this season.

"It probably sums us up a bit," he added. "We're aware we have to be at our absolute best to win, and if you're not against a good side like New Zealand, you get hurt."

Despite his winning record dropping below 40%, Rennie's job looks safe through to next year's World Cup but only perhaps because expectations are so low after seven years of underperformance.

There is no denying that the prospects of the Wallabies winning a third World Cup in France next year remain as remote as they were when he took over, however.

Rennie described Australia's performance in the Rugby Championship as "a mixed bag" with the wins over world champions South Africa and Argentina as well as the performance in the loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne the highlights.

Australia's next chance to put together consecutive wins for the first time this season will come on the season-ending tour of Europe, where they play Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in successive weeks.

"It's a tough tour but we need to play a lot of footy with a lot of young men," Rennie said.

"The more they play the better heading into World Cup year."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by ...)

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