Australia bounced back from their shock loss to Scotland with a morale-boosting 27-19 win over Wales in Brisbane on Saturday.
Australia bounced back from their shock loss to Scotland with a morale-boosting 27-19 win over Wales at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
What a difference four days makes, as the hosts dug deep to prove their doubters wrong and take a 1-0 lead in the series against this year's Six Nations Grand Slam champions.
Wales, who at one stage trailed by fourteen points (20-6), managed to claw their way back into the match and cut the deficit to one (20-19) in an absorbing encounter.
But a try by centre Pat McCabe in the 67th minute proved to be the killer blow as the Welsh slumped to their fifth straight defeat to Australia.
The Wallabies' win takes the heat off under-pressure coach Robbie Deans, whose side rebounded impressively from Tuesday's Scottish disaster with an enterprising ball-in-hand game plan at their Brisbane fortress.
Wales – desperate to end a 43-year drought Down Under – were forced to play catch-up rugby throughout, and it all started when Berrick Barnes opened the scoring with a straightforward penalty kick in the ninth minute.
Australia looked to have created a certain try when Rob Horne darted to the left, but Alex Cuthbert – outstanding for the visitors – prevented the scoring pass with a crucial tackle.
However, just moments later the Wallabies crossed following a series of drives from their forwards that ended with number eight Scott Higginbotham crashing over for his first Test try.
Barnes added the extras and Australia led 10-0 after 16 minutes.
Wales finally got themselves on the scoreboard courtesy of a Leigh Halfpenny, but the men in red were struggling to find any momentum against a Wallabies outfit playing with their tails up.
The tourists then suffered a major blow on the half-hour mark when destructive winger George North was replaced with a quad injury to put him in doubt for next week's second Test in Melbourne.
Trailing 10-3 at half-time, any thoughts of a second-half respite by Australia was extinguished immediately by Will Genia who needed less than a minute after the break to grab his team's second try.
The Wallaby scrum-half exploited space expertly and then effected an outrageous side-step to negotiate the last line of defence. The finish was a moment of individual brilliance and highlighted Genia's running threat as he dived over for the converted try to extend Australia's lead even further (17-3).
Another Halfpenny penalty was then cancelled out by a Barnes drop-goal, but Halfpenny again nudged Wales closer with a third penalty (20-9).
As the game went on, it was evident that the hosts began to tire in the second half and were not as effective at controlling the ball at close quarters. And as the game grew looser, Wales came into their own.
Ashley Beck replaced centre Scott Williams and with his first touch of the ball, put Cuthbert over for his fourth Test try. Halfpenny converted and added an excellent penalty from out wide to cut the deficit to 20-19 on 63 minutes.
Wales were eying a remarkable turnaround, but Australia showed their clinical edge when they needed it most. Genia was again the creator, picking his pass to McCabe who crashed over with thirteen minutes remaining.
Barnes converted and Australia were once again eight points ahead.
Twice Cuthbert threatened to break clear for a second try that Wales desperately needed, but was denied as Australia recovered to hold out for victory.
Man of the match: Alex Cuthbert was Wales' standout player,, while David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper all made significant contributions for Australia. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who gets our vote – Will Genia take a bow. Apart from his try, Genia looked every bit the general in the number nine position.
Moment of the match: Genia's try… pure magic.
Villain of the match: No malice to report!
Tries: Higginbotham, Genia, McCabe
Cons: Barnes 3
Pen: Halfpenny 4
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu , 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons , 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, 18 Michael Hooper, 19 Nic White, 20 Anthony Fainga'a, 21 Mike Harris.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 James Hook, 22 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)