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Rennie fronts the press as Wallabies make wrong kind of history

By AAP
Even Dave Rennie was left empathising with disillusioned Australian rugby fans after presiding over the Wallabies' inglorious first-ever loss to Italy. (Getty Images)

Even Dave Rennie was left empathising with disillusioned Australian rugby fans after presiding over the Wallabies’ inglorious first-ever loss to Italy.

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The Wallabies plumbed new lows in a 28-27 shocker in Florence, leaving Rennie to face the music after his winning record slumped to 37.5 per cent from a rollercoaster 32-Test tenure.

“It’s hugely disappointing and it’s not good enough,” Rennie said after taking his dubious place in the history books as the first Wallabies coach in 19 Tests and a 39-year rivalry to fall to the 12th-ranked Italians.

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“All I can say is it’s hurting. You go in to the change room and the boys are hurt. They know we’re better than that and so I understand the frustration.”

Rookie playmaker Ben Donaldson missed a chance to boost Australia to victory after fulltime but pushed his conversion attempt wide.

“It’s easy to look at the last few seconds but we put ourselves under pressure throughout. We’re bitterly disappointed in our performance,” Rennie said.

“Too many penalties and too much field position gave them an opportunity to hurt us.”

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Rennie will forever be haunted for making a dozen changes to his starting line-up from last week’s spirited 30-29 loss to France in Paris.

“It’s not much more changes than we made the week before. Obviously there were a couple of extra bodies that we would have played today had they not been injured from the French game,” said the crestfallen coach.

“We had a good enough side out on the paddock tonight to win tonight.”

But while the raft of personnel changes denied the Wallabies cohesion and continuity, ill-discipline was again the biggest coach killer.

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World rugby’s most penalised tier-one outfit conceded another 16 penalties at Stadio Artemio Franchi to be on the back foot all afternoon.

Botched lineouts, poor defensive reads and fundamental errors also brought the Wallabies unstuck.

The Wallabies were u ntidy from the get-go, winger Tom Wright knocking on from the opening kick-off to gift Italy the first attacking opportunity.

Three points were enough as Tommaso Allan slotted the Azzurri’s first points.

The Wallabies, showing little respect for an opposition boasting four wins from their previous five Tests, turned down the chance to reply before Noah Lolesio eventually accepted a shot from in front to level up.

Wallabies halfback Jake Gordon was yellow-carded for bumping Allan in to touch off the ball after Melbourne-bound, Brisbane-raised Monty Ioane had instigated a threatening left-side raid.

The Azzurri cashed in on their one-man advantage, with tries to winger Pierre Bruno and impressive fullback Ange Capuozzo giving the hosts a 17-3 lead they would never relinquish.

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An airborne Wright try finally bagged Australia’s first try in the 31st minute but Lolesio missed two attempts at the conversion after being handed a rare second shot because of an illegal charge from the Italians.

Trailing 17-8 at the break, an Australian fightback appeared in the offing when Fraser McReight touched down and Lolesio converted to reduce the deficit to two points straight after halftime.

But the Wallabies found themselves under intense pressure when fullback Capuozzo bagged his second try to leave Italy 10 points in front with 13 minutes remaining.

A Tom Robertson try, which Lolesio converted from the sideline, then a five-pointer to fellow replacement forward Cadeyrn Neville in the 81st minute gave the Wallabies their opportunity to snatch victory.

But with Lolesio off, Donaldson – just minutes into his Test debut – stepped up and pushed his shot wide, leaving Italy to rejoice in a famous victory.

Rennie has little time to pick up the pieces as the Wallabies head to Dublin to face the top-ranked Irish next Saturday before a tour-ending clash with Wales in Cardiff.

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