An off night with the boot from Lori Cramer and some impatient play has cost the Wallaroos in a reality-check 12-10 Test loss to Japan.
Full-back Cramer missed both conversions and then a straightforward penalty kick with two minutes to play that would have won the sloppy Tuesday night contest on the Gold Coast.
But they had errors elsewhere to blame for the shock loss that came after beating Japan 46-3 in their last encounter almost three years ago.
Captain Shannon Parry was frustrated but, after ending a near 1000-day wait between Tests just last week, said they could learn from it ahead of October’s World Cup.
“It was a tough Test match, but we were are own worst enemy out there,” she said. “Every time we turned it over they made us pay.
“They smother your attack and did that well tonight and we struggled to secure our breakdown and we failed at that [controlling the ball].
“But we’ve been together less than 10 days now. We want to be up there at the end of the year so it’s a really good learning experience.”
Sharp in attack in Friday’s defeat of Fiji, the Wallaroos were smothered at Bond University and unable to find the patience needed in a first half that finished 0-0.
Japanese No 10 Ayasa Otsuka drew first blood after 48 minutes, swooping on a loose between-the-legs pass from opposite number Arabella McKenzie to score.
Ashley Marsters had the reply for the Wallaroos, who won the ball back thanks to their powerful scrum and then helped the forward push over.
Kyoko Hosokawa hit back though, slicing through some soft defence out wide after repeated penalties, before Adiana Talakai scored the Wallaroos’ second.
Cramer then had the chance to push the Wallaroos ahead but instead watched her shot sail wide, the run-down attempts of the Japanese going unpunished despite the fullback’s protests.
The visitors, who had former Wallabies Ben Mowen and Berrick Barnes among their coaching staff, then won a scrum and held possession long enough to secure the upset win
“I am extremely, extremely proud,” Japan captain Saki Minami said. “There is a lot of thought put into this jersey, not just those of us on the field but back in Japan with girls playing rugby.”
Parry and backrow partner Grace Hamilton were among Australia’s best, while prop Liz Patu’s stint off the bench earned her a record 25th Wallaroos cap.
Australia will play Tests against New Zealand, USA and Canada next month, before three more against the Kiwi World Cup hosts in August.