Australian media Saturday described as bittersweet the Wallabies victory over Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze play-off, noting that it came too late and at great injury cost.
"Wallaby rejects set in bronze," read the headline in The Australian, which said the Wallabies finally showed what might have been as they attacked well and came away with a 21-18 win at Eden Park.
"Welcome as it was, one would have to ask why the Wallabies waited until the virtual dead rubber of the bronze medal playoff before finally showing some enterprise," wrote Wayne Smith.
"Without question, the Wallabies were under nothing like the same mental or physical pressure this week that they faced against the All Blacks but their performance, flawed though it might have been last night, showed what could have been achieved had they backed themselves more in attack."
The win was particularly painful for Quade Cooper, who had had a forgettable tournament until his 20 minutes on Friday night, and who limped off the field with a serious knee injury which could rule the flyhalf out of the game for months.
Kurtley Beale was also sidelined with a hamstring injury, leaving it to Berrick Barnes to help build the morale-boosting victory.
"It's the old story. When the Wallabies have their backs to the wall, they produce. But again, it was a bit too late, and it came at a considerable cost," wrote chief rugby correspondent Greg Growden in The Sydney Morning Herald.
There was also criticism of coach Robbie Deans, with the Daily Telegraph saying his selection strategy was called into question after players he had largely ignored for the tournament shone against Wales.
"Why Barnes was not used earlier in the tournament by Deans will remain a mystery," wrote Iain Payten, though he added "hindsight is a wonderful thing".
Nathan Sharpe and Scott Higginbotham were crucial in the victory against the Welsh but underused during the tournament in which Australia suffered a 20-6 semifinal defeat against New Zealand to meet Wales in the play-off, he added.
"World Cups are all about playing Lleyton Hewitt rugby - giving the ball back until the other guys make mistakes - and Barnes proved himself the baseline slugger the Wallabies have needed all tournament," Payten said as he compared the centre to the Australian tennis player.
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