For the second time in as many weeks Australia needed a late penalty to edge past Wales, winning 20-19 in an engrossing clash.
For the second time in as many weeks Australia needed a late penalty to edge past Wales, winning 20-19 in an engrossing clash in Sydney.
Berrick Barnes landed a penalty five minutes from full-time to break Welsh hearts after yet another spirited display from the visitors.
The result leaves Wales winless against the Wallabies on Australia soil since 1969.
When the dust settles, the Welsh will have some long analysis to do, both on themselves and on Craig Joubert, who had a big influence on the game. He attempted to lay down the law as strictly as possible, but ended up breaking the rhythm and causing frustration a little too much, while also failing to deal with a lot of unwillingness to scrum properly from both sides. Australia responded slightly better overall but both teams looked scared to attempt things at times, too desperate at others.
They'll also reflect on the bounce of the ball which took James Hook's long hack downfield into touch milliseconds before the chasing Hook, 10 metres ahead of his nearest opponent arrived to gather it. Sometimes you just can't buy a break.
But there's little point in the Welsh screaming at Joubert or Lady Luck. They could also look to the number of restarts they failed to deal with and the two clear penalties in the 73rd and 74th minutes, of which first cost them good attacking position and the second the winning three points.
There was nothing to choose between the teams at half time in rugby terms but Barnes' fourth penalty just before the interval gave Australia a 12-9 lead – the four penalty to three scoreline an indication both of the broken rhythm of the game and the incessant stream of penalties. The second half was better as the teams tired and the game broke up naturally.
It took 61 minutes for the first try to be scored, but when Ryan Jones crashed over under the posts on a pick-and-go after Alex Cuthbert's run Wales took the lead for the first time and were good value for it. More precise on attack and threatening with ball in hand, the scrum was beginning to turn the screw as well.
The try drew an immediate response though – again from one of those spilled restarts – and the defence, panicked, folded in and left Rob Horne oodles of space outside. Even then, Horne almost butchered it, ending up controlling the ball between forearm and leg as he touched down. the TMO deemed that enough downward pressure and Australia had the lead back.
Leigh Halfpenny's fourth penalty – his second from 50 metres – with ten minutes left on the clock put the Six Nations champions back in front to set up a grandstand finish.
Barnes held his nerve, however, to split the uprights in the 75th minute to give Australia a one-point win and a 3-0 series clean sweep.
Man of the match: Try-scorer Ryan Jones and Jonathan Davies had strong games for the Welsh. A mention too for Barnes, who was near faultless from the kicking tee and landed the winning points with a cool swing of the leg. But we'll go for Wallaby skipper David Pocock who was a constant thorn in the side of the Welshman at the breakdown.
Moment of the match: The TMO made big call when he awarded Rob Horne's try. At first glance it looked like the centre lost control in act of going over. It would have ben extremely harsh to deny the try and, in the end, it turned out be a game-changing decision…
Villain of the match: No nasty stuff to report…
Pens: Barnes 5
Try: R. Jones
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 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 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nic White, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Rhys Webb, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)