Australia answered so many questions at the Millennium Stadium as they outplayed Wales 33-12 in all departments on Saturday.
Australia answered so many questions at the Millennium Stadium as they outplayed Wales 33-12 on Saturday.
Say what you will about the Wallabies but they do possess a class and zest that can dominate anyone on their day. This was one of those unfortunately for the shell-shocked Welsh, who were left chasing gold shadows and falling off tackles for large parts of the Cardiff contest.
Pre-tour injuries to the tourists' starting centre duo were finally put behind them while the lateral hosts were hampered by losing Leigh Halfpenny, Shane Williams and Matthew Rees to go with the absent Mike Phillips, Ryan Jones and Tom Shanklin.
But one suspects that not even a full-strength Welsh under the roof would have stopped this rampant Australian outfit in this kind of form, as they were simply in another league on their final 2009 outing. And yes, it went a long way to banishing any lingering memories of Murrayfield.
It was also to be a much-improved performance from fly-half Matt Giteau as his combination with Quade Cooper looked a cut above opposite numbers Stephen Jones and Jonathan Davies.
Quickly into his stride, the Brumby knocked over the opening three points from 50 metres after Ospreys tighthead Paul James was penalised at scrum-time. And that proved to be the catalyst for the visitors, with centre Cooper spotting some lazy inside defence to put a racing Peter Hynes up to the home 22-metre.
What followed was a script that Wales' worst nightmare could not even match.
The departure of last week's double try-scorer Williams – due to what looked like an innocuous injury – was then followed up by fellow Lions Halfpenny and Rees leaving the field. Now it really looked like being Australia's day.
More and more pressure was consequently being applied on the fragile-looking Welsh line and with Giteau intent to put things right, one sensed there was plenty more defending to do with 70 minutes remaining on the matchday clock.
Giteau was of course the orchestrator when the hosts were caught flat-footed soon after while the then-present Halfpenny left his job of watching the space in-behind.
The fly-half spotted this blunder and slid through a perfectly-weighted grubber that sat up nicely for man-of-the-match Digby Ioane. But moments later the playmaker's vision was penalised by Barnes, who adjudged Hynes to be in front of a second cross-field kick that came across to the right. Halfpenny slotted over the points with aplomb from 50 metres.
Then came an Australian double score, seconds later I might add. Benn Robinson was able to stretch his legs down the left before feeding Drew Mitchell in support, who in turn sent James Horwill over for the visitors' second five-pointer.
Gold pressure continued to come in front of a quiet Cardiff support and following sustained pressure, it was then the turn of David Pocock to reach over and cross after a smart ball from hooker Stephen Moore.
An sign that mission was firmly accomplished had to be the sight of the impressive Pocock being held back on the bench for the whole second period, a second period that had a depressing air of inevitability about it from a home perspective.
Wales were predictably finished off in a clinical manner in the end when Giteau carved them open and Polota-Nau touched down on 61 minutes. The on-song number ten added the extras, putting a seal on a high-class display packed with flair and deadly attacking execution while Wales must now regroup ahead of their Six Nations opener against England on February 6.
Man of the match: So many Australian names come to mind. The impressive first-half effort from David Pocock, the constant threat of Peter Hynes coming off his wing, Matt Giteau, both Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander. But for his all-round showing in Stirling Mortlock's shoes, Digby Ioane picks up the award for his dynamism that had Wales struggling for answers.
Moment of the match: Wales had a gilt-edged chance to get themselves back in the contest when Jamie Roberts was put through a hole. All he had to do was back himself or offload possession to the supporting Tom James, but the winger slid from the pass and the chance to close matters had gone.
Villain of the match: A game played in good spirits. No award.
Pens: Halfpenny, Jones 3
Tries: Ioane, Horwill, Pocock, Polota-Nau
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Roberts, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Paul James, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Sam Warburton, 20 Martin Roberts, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Tom James.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Quade Cooper, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Dean Mumm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 George Smith, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 James O'Connor, 22 Kurtley Beale.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Peter Allan (Scotland)
Television match officials: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Patrick Robin (France)
By Adam Kyriacou