Sydney - Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale has pleaded with Australian rugby fans not to abandon the team after an inept defensive performance in their 54-34 defeat at the hands of New Zealand on Saturday.
Michael Cheika's side had hoped to lift some of the gloom hanging over Australian rugby after a miserable Super Rugby season on and off the field but instead added to it with humiliating reverse at the hands of their neighbours.
Beale, returning for his first test in nearly two years, scored a try in Australia's second half resurgence but was as much to blame as anyone in green and gold for the eight tries they shipped in the first 48 minutes.
"We kind of let ourselves down in that first half," he told reporters on Sunday.
"We are working hard, we do care and we love playing rugby for Australia. As a group, we're going to keep playing rugby and try and deliver the brand of rugby that everyone wants to see.
"We're just going to keep focusing on that and hopefully everybody can just stick by us."
World Cup winning Wallabies great Michael Lynagh led a chorus of criticism aimed at the Wallabies, who missed 48 tackles during the match.
"I can't overestimate how angry I am at seeing an Australian team who have skills that are non-existent," the former fly-half said in commentary for British TV.
"Passing and catching and making tackles and trusting the bloke beside you are pretty basic, even at schoolboy level."
While Lynagh was part of a team that beat the All Blacks 22-9 at their Eden Park fortress in 1986 to win the Bledisloe Cup, the current side's prospects of wresting back the symbol of Australasian rugby supremacy look bleak.
Victory for the All Blacks in the second round of the Rugby Championship in Dunedin next week would ensure they keep the trophy on the eastern shore of the Tasman Sea for a 15th straight year.
Cheika could barely contain his fury at his team's defensive ineptitude on Saturday but was confident they would rally from the disappointing display.
"There's no 1,2,3 step process for that type of stuff," he said after the match.
"It comes down to a deep belief between players... This group of players here, they've got a very strong connection.
"I've seen it over this first month that they've been together and this is a roadblock in front of us of course and it's going to knock us down but it's not going to stop us, no."