Wales were left lamenting more poor goal-kicking after a 21-18 bronze medal defeat by Australia at Eden Park on Friday brought a disappointing end to a World Cup campaign that had promised so much.
James Hook and Leigh Halfpenny both missed shots at goal as, for the second match in a row following their 9-8 semi-inal loss to France, Wales again let precious points slip by.
"At this level, you've got to take the opportunities, but unfortunately on these big occasions our goal-kicking has let us down," Wales coach Warren Gatland, who started with Hook at flyhalf in the absence of the injured Rhys Priestland, with veteran Stephen Jones on the bench, said.
"If you look at the past, those kickers that have been taking goals, their percentages have normally been in the 80s and they've been reliable goal-kickers and for whatever reason, unfortunately, they've missed a couple of crucial ones."
Hook missed a penalty early in the second period from in front of the Australian posts that, if successful, would have drawn the Welsh to within one point of the Wallabies.
"You look at the one James missed from almost in front of the posts, it's pretty important in the scheme of things and it's probably what's cost us," said Gatland.
"It has been an area that has definitely been one of our strengths but for some reason, we come to this tournament and perhaps we haven't nailed some critical moments and some critical kicks at goal and it turned out to be quite costly."
The New Zealander added Wales had missed injured prop Adam Jones, Priestland, and captain Sam Warburton, serving a three-week ban for a dangerous tip tackle on Vincent Clerc during last week's defeat by France.
And he also admitted that last-four encounter with the French had perhaps left his side mentally drained.
"We learnt tonight that we weren't quite as emotionally up for it as we had been for other games," Gatland said.
"Our performance was a little bit down on what we're capable of. In saying that, Australia are one of the top sides in the world and it was a very close score and we scored two tries against them."
The result continued Wales's terrible run in 45 Tests against Tri-Nations countries since the advent of professionalism after the 1995 World Cup.
They've managed just one win over South Africa (1999), two against Australia (2005, 2008), and tasted nothing but defeat against New Zealand.
But Gatland insisted that there were positives to take out of the World Cup, where younger players such as Warburton, Priestland, No.8 Toby Faletau, teenage wing George North and fullback Halfpenny have shone.
"We're disappointed but we've got to take positives from this tournament, the way we've done and the way we've progressed as a team," Gatland said.
"They've played seven Test matches in seven weeks plus the warm-up games, so they've been through a lot.
"The youngsters would have learnt and will definitely be stronger for these experiences."
Prop Gethin Jenkins, stand-in captain in place of Warburton, said: "We were a bit disappointed about the amount of basic errors in the first 20 minutes, it didn't let us get much of a flow into the game, and we saw them come at us and we had to soak it up
"We're pretty down in the changing rooms because we know we're better than that, we could have put a better performance in. But you've got to be realistic, Australia are a very good, very dangerous team."
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