Michael Cheika (Getty)
Twickenha - Australia coach Michael Cheika praised his side's character after they fought back in the World Cup final before losing 34-17 to defending champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
Tries either side of half-time by Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu saw the All Blacks surge into a commanding 21-3 lead.
But, with New Zealand's Ben Smith in the sin-bin, Australia scored two converted tries through David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani to cut the gap to 21-17.
However, a drop-goal and penalty inside the last 10 minutes from New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter, the man-of-the-match, saw the All Blacks pull away.
"The number (final score) didn't matter in the end," said Cheika.
"It's obviously very painful to lose, it's a great campaign and we wanted to carry it on," added the coach, who never doubted his side could come back.
"I felt 35 minutes was enough time for us to claw our way back and change the momentum of the contest, which we did.
"Then 24-17, even seven points for a (converted) try could have taken the game into extra-time.
"We could have easily gone home, but the heart and the courage that has been built in this team meant we didn't want to do that," the former Stade Francais and Leinster boss added.
New Zealand have lost just three matches since winning the 2011 World Cup, although one of those defeats by Australia came in August as the Wallabies clinched the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
Asked how the rest of the world could keep pace with the All Blacks, Cheika replied: "Just stay at it and keep trying to improve."
"I think we've made good ground in that area in the last 12 months," said Cheika, who was parachuted into the Australia set-up on the eve of last year's tour of Europe after the shock resignation of Ewen McKenzie.
"We are just starting and want to do really good things for Australian rugby going forward," added Cheika.