After struggling through his worst game of the Rugby World Cup before reprising his role as the team’s ice-man, Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley admits he “owed it to the team” to nail the most important kick of his career.
The five-eighth had endured a difficult afternoon with the boot, missing his first three kicks after entering the elimination quarter-final as one of the tournament’s best-performed kickers.
Foley, who dropped two bombs in the first half, had also been at fault for Scotland’s second try, when a clearing kick was charged down by his opposite, Finn Russell, who regathered and offloaded for Tommy Seymour to cross in the corner.
But with one final chance, he rose to the occasion and split the uprights, securing a dramatic 35-34 victory.
Teammate Will Genia admitted he couldn’t even watch as the kick was being taken – and was relying on a small cheer, rather than a big one from the parochial home crowd, to echo around the Twickenham stadium to let him know whether the Wallabies had won.
But only one thought was going through the mind of Foley.
“I was thinking I owed the team after getting that kick charged down,” he said.
“It was a bit of ‘let’s make up for it and think of the job at hand and back yourself to hit it sweetly’.
“It was the best hit I did all night.”
The 26-year-old, who has been working with kicking coach Chris Malone to hone his consistency in late-game situations, blocked out all negative thoughts.
The result was the biggest moment in his career.
“It’s definitely the most important,” said Foley, whose cool-headed kicking helped deliver the NSW Waratahs the 2014 Super Rugby title.
“We talk about this World Cup as the biggest thing we’ll ever play in and, for me, it’s exactly that.
“To keep us in the tournament, to find a way to win, it shows character of this side, and all the hard work and belief and detail we’ve put in leading into the tournament.
“We haven’t left any stone unturned in what we’ve done in the lead-up and staying alive in the tournament is a god’s blessing and we want to go on with it.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who also mentored Foley at the Waratahs, put complete faith in the young playmaker.
It’s why he chose to leave Foley in the match, despite an indifferent display, instead of bringing the enigmatic Quade Cooper off the bench.
“Our kicks weren’t going through but we didn’t let that stress us,” Cheika said.
“Otherwise, we would have changed Bernard at halftime as kicker and we know he’s a great goal kicker.
“These things happen in a game and you’ve got to hold your nerve.
“You can’t panic every time something doesn’t go right.
“You’ve got to have a criteria as to what you do decide.
“I spoke with the kicking coach, Chris Malone, and he had a very clear methodology around the decision making going forward and that criteria was met and Bernard stayed on as the kicker.”