No excuses, we were beaten by a better side. That was the message coming from the Wallabies camp last night as they digested their first loss to the All Blacks at a Rugby World Cup.
Beaten at the tackle area, beaten at scrum time and beaten in the air, captain James Horwill summed up the feelings of his side when he said: "We were beaten fair and square by a better side tonight."
From the looks on Horwill and Deans' faces, it looked as if they had suffered a 40-point thumping, rather than 14. They went in with a plan to take on the All Blacks in the air, but a superb performance in the back field, particularly by Cory Jane, forced a rethink.
"The aerial work of the All Blacks was very good. We changed our approach after halftime, but we just weren't able to generate enough momentum.
"They inhibited our attack, not only in terms of the way they attacked the ball on the ground, but because they were successful, as the game went on our guys started to become a bit apprehensive," said Horwill.
With territory statistics falling in New Zealand's favour 62 to 38 per cent, Australia were forced to launch attacks from deep.
In Digby Ioane they had the game's most dangerous broken-field runner, but they seemed to have few other coherent ideas. Kurtley Beale was clearly missed.
Quade Cooper, the pantomime villain, made a mess of the first half but slowly found his feet in the second. On balance he wasn't awful, but he and Will Genia never provided the rapier thrust in close.
That was in part because New Zealand dominated the breakdown. Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino and Richie McCaw, for the first time in this tournament, played like the best loose-forward trio in the world.
Genia was forced to use either slow ball, or ball on the back foot.
Australia's vaunted backs were unable to strut their considerable stuff.
"[The All Blacks] defended very well," said Deans. "To score was important to us, particularly just prior to halftime, but they denied us that.
"They made it difficult all night for us to create any momentum."
Deans and Horwill were gracious in their praise of the All Blacks and the former Crusaders coach said he could sense a hardness in the team that would help them against the French.
"They're well-versed, they're hungry and they've got a lot of support ... so they'll take some stopping."
He also suspected it would not be the last time he locked horns with Graham Henry. "I doubt it's the last we'll see of him, he'll just be in a different guise. Good luck to New Zealand for the final."