MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Missing a place kick to secure victory is the ‘toughest’ place to be after a big match but Kurtley Beale will bounce back from the first test disappointment against the Lions, according to former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock.
The 24-year-old Beale famously nailed a 55-metre penalty in 2010 to hand Australia their first win on South Africa’s highveld in over four decades, but the back missed two kicks in the last five minutes at Lang Park on Saturday.
The second attempt, in the last minute, would have handed Wallabies victory but Beale slipped during his kicking action and the ball fell short and wide of the posts to give the Lions an opening 23-21 victory in the three-test series.
Mortlock, a barnstorming centre who had his share of nerve-wracking kicks in a sparkling 80-cap career, said not every kick could bring a fairytale ending.
“I can only go from my experience. I had a few of those instances when I couldn’t get through the poles, it’s emotionally the toughest place you can be in,” Mortlock told Reuters in an interview.
”It is a really tough time when you don’t get that, but I’ve got full confidence in Kurtley that he can bounce back and will bounce back.
”Part of the process to exercise those kicks is understanding that they’re not always going to go over.
“I thought Kurtley’s impact on the game was outstanding. As he felt his way into the game, the more he touched the ball and got involved, the better the Wallabies looked.”
Although Beale’s performance off the bench failed to secure the points, the utility back’s drive brought the Wallabies back into the game after flyhalf James O‘Connor struggled in the chief playmaker’s role.
Mortlock defended O‘Connor, however, and said he had suffered through the loss of inside centre and designated place kicker Christian Lealiifano, who was knocked out cold in the first minute and stretchered off.
While the backline carnage, which saw three Wallabies players carried off, would necessitate a reshuffle to the lineup, now was not the time to make radical changes with the series on the line in Melbourne, Mortlock said.
“No doubt both the Lions and the Wallabies will review that performance pretty intensively,” he added.
”But given the attrition rate, it’s going to be more about getting everyone on the same page.
“I think the key for the Wallabies is to stay on the same path as far as working on the good stuff they did (in Brisbane) and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Melbourne Rebels could do their bit for the cause by pushing the Lions hard in their tour match at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Tuesday, Mortlock said, the Super Rugby team’s inaugural skipper.
They would naturally look to the ACT Brumbies’ unlikely 14-12 upset of the Lions in Canberra for inspiration, but would trust in their running game to challenge the tourists.
”I think the Rebels can take a huge amount out of the test match and the way the Brumbies took to the Lions a week earlier in Canberra.
The Rebels are absolutely excited and pumped at the opportunity to have the honour to play against the Lions.
“Specifically, the Brumbies showed... that you can put pressure on the Lions, and that intent and physical collision (in the test match) is an area that we’re going to have to be strong at,” Mortlock said.
”As a team we play our best rugby when we’re really expansive and have a real positive mindset and how we go about our business.
“The guys have been putting that mindset into training (but) as you know, intent is one thing, while execution is another.”
Editing by John O'Brien