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Sharpe: Wallabies in good hands

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Sportal.co.nz     22 Oct 2012     Getty Images

The Wallabies threw everything at New Zealand in a gripping contest but fell short of pulling off what would have been a remarkable upset win against the world champions.

It was Sharpe's last game on home soil, and he now has four matches left in his Wallabies career as the team prepares to embark on a spring tour of Europe.

But at the end of it, he will be more than happy to pass the baton to the new generation of Australian players, who were fearless in the face of a typically brutal All Blacks assault.

"It's frustrating not to take the points there, but I'm very proud of the group," Sharpe said.

"What we showed out there was a great bit of character and tremendous resolve.

"I'll leave in four games, and I know it's in good hands because there's a great bunch of boys in that changing room over there. And they'll take Australian rugby forward."

New Zealander-turned-Australian Mike Harris, 24, was the most impressive of the lot.

He converted all five of his penalty goal attempts and coach Robbie Deans said his contribution was crucial in a match where neither side crossed the stripe successfully.

"You've seen all tournament how tough it is to score tries. Particularly the encounters we've had with the All Blacks were like that," Deans said.

"You've got to turn the scoreboard over, and Mike does that very well. He loves that responsibility. What was impressive was the way he adapted to fullback - he hasn't played a lot of fullback."

Kurtley Beale has not played a lot of international rugby at first five-eighths either - and yet the 23-year-old managed to steer the Wallabies with aplomb.

He could have won it in the dying stages, but didn't pull the trigger despite countless pick-and-drive plays in a pulsating few minutes of post-siren play.

"I was umming and ahhing," Beale admitted. "It's a difficult one now, thinking back - I should have taken the shot, but I had full trust there in the forwards.

"We were getting a lot of pay there early in the first half and in the second with penalties."

Beale's reluctance nearly backfired when, seconds later, Dan Carter only narrowly missed his match-winning drop goal attempt.

But his captain and coach were both in his corner.

Sharpe said: "We back him, 100 percent. He made the right call.

"We were making yards through the middle there and sometimes you get penalties, sometimes you don't.

"Credit to the All Blacks, they could have kicked the ball out. They showed their mettle and had a crack."

Asked what was going through his mind when Carter went for the win, Deans said: "There's no point sweating it. It would have been a tough pill, that's for sure."