'Felt like I let my teammates down': Noah Lolesio talks semi-final drop-kick
Young playmaker Noah Lolesio has recovered from the angst of having his last-minute attempt on goal charged down in the Super Rugby Pacific semi-final between the Brumbies and Blues and is now out to earn the coveted Wallabies No 10 jersey ahead of their three-match series with England.
With time up on the clock at the Brumbies hot on attack, Lolesio received the ball from halfback Ryan Lonergan and took aim at the posts with a drop goal which would have earned his side a historic victory at Eden Park and a spot in the grand final.
Unfortunately for Lolesio and the Brumbies, Blues prop Ofa Tuungafasi had other ideas and was able to rush out of the defensive line and charge down the kick. The Blues claimed the ball from the ensuing scramble and eventually belted it into the stands, ending the contest – and ending the Brumbies’ season.
“Rugby is a pretty fast-paced game and you’ve got to make decisions very quickly,” Lolesio said this week.
“[I was planning] for the drop-kick but I probably got the ball earlier [than] expected. I didn’t realise anyone was in front of me. I back myself. I went for the drop goal and it got charged down, which sucked.”
It was a heartbreaking moment for the 22-year-old, who’d marched his side around the park superbly throughout the campaign. While he wasn’t able to immediately park and move on from the disappointment, however, Lolesio’s now come out the other side a better player ahead of the first internationals of the year.
“I’ve definitely learned from it,” he said. “If I’m being completely honest, it took me three to four days to get over. I know it was such a big part of the game and I really felt like I let my teammates down, which is not what you want to do.
“[But] I moved on from that. The biggest thing I’ve learned in rugby is you’ve got to have a short-term memory when stuff like that happens.”
Without Tuungafasi’s influence, it’s impossible to know whether Lolesio’s kick would have flown true – but the young flyhalf was confident he’d struck the attempt well.
“Quade [Cooper] asked me if I hit it sweet and if it was going over,” he said. “I was like, ‘oh, yeah, surely’. I guess we’ll never know.”
Now, Lolesio will compete with the likes of Cooper and James O’Connor for minutes in the Wallabies No 10 jersey. While the youngster was the third cab off the ranks last year, another season of Super Rugby under his belt will have treated him well and senior halfback Nic White suggested Lolesio’s ownership in attempting to kick his team to victory against the Blues exemplifies his development as a player.
“In big moments like that, you want people like Noah wanting the ball,” said White. “I think that was the biggest thing is he wanted it and the last thing you want is someone to go into their shell and be scared of those big moments so I thought it was a real positive.
“If it goes an inch higher and down the middle, he’s probably asking for an extra zero (on his contract) so it’s important that a guy like Noah, he’s had plenty of moments like this and he keeps wanting the ball.
“We spoke about it after the game and it was all about it’s awesome that he wants the ball.
“You look at Michael Jordan, he missed plenty of game-winners but kept putting his hand up … if it comes down in that first test, I’m sure Noah will be putting his hand up in the pocket screaming for it and [we need to] give it to him at the right time with a wall in front of him.
“We learn but the most important thing is Noah wanted it and he’s got to continue wanting it and that’s what I love about playing with him is that he always wants it in those big moments.”
The Wallabies will kick off their test season against England next Saturday with coach Dave Rennie set to name the matchday squad on Thursday.
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