Planet Rugby

Wallabies outstrip Wales in Brisbane

02nd June 2007 12:50

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Digby Ioane

Dead Red: Wales get to grips from with Digby Ioane

In a dour game that highlighted the mismatches of all the Tests of the weekend, Australia proved too much for a fighting but weak Welsh side, downing them 31-0 to claim the James Bevan Trophy in Brisbane on Saturday.

Wales were out to avenge last weekend's last-minute defeat to Australia were they threw away a 17-point lead and allowed Stephen Hoiles to snatch victory for the Wallabies with the last move of the match.

Australia, for their part, vowed to shake free the rust that had weighed them down in Sydney.

Well, a win's a win and this one was quite comfortable, but nothing on display at the Suncorp Stadium could be described as polished steel.

Perhaps we expected too much from this match. The drama in Sydney stood out like a brilliant beacon amid the mire of mediocre mid-year 'Test' matches, and Brisbanites were expecting a fitting sequel.

What they witnessed was a negative, listless performance from both sides - a game more suited to a pre-season selectorial joust best played behind closed doors.

The crowd let their feelings be known as the Wallabies trooped off at half-time, booing in protest of the poxy 6-0 scoreline.

The crowd's disdain, a veritable barbecuing during the interval and the introduction of the evergreen George Gregan all led to a marked improvement from the Wallabies in the second half.

Suddenly the gaps began to open up and the use of turnover possession became more instinctive.

It seem to dawn on the Australians that their speedster had the edge on their counterparts and unanswered tries from Digby Ioane, Drew Mitchell and Julian Huxley duly followed.

Welsh misery was compounded by the sight of Chris Czekaj and Jamie Robinson being carried from the pitch in obvious agony, the latter with a serious injury that could see him miss the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.

A tentative start was punctuated when Stephen Larkham ushered Nathan Sharpe through a gap in midfield. The big lock kept the ball alive, and although Stirling Mortlock ran out of turf, the Wallabies suddenly looked alive.

The attack tweaked Welsh nerves and they coughed up a penalty for a collapsed a scrum in the shadow of their posts. Mortlock struck the place-kick sweetly to draw first blood after 12 minutes.

Wales should have responded in kind through James Hook two minutes later, but his attempt drifted wide from 35 metres and in front of the posts. The visitors then blew another chance as Jones delayed a pass to Czekaj.

After 19 minutes Wales again found themselves waiting and watching as Mortlock lined up a shot at goal, this time after the visitors fell offside just outside their 22 and the centre did his captain's job by hitting the target.

Six minutes later the night went from bad to worse for Wales and Czekaj in particular as a tackle by hooker Stephen Moore ended with the Cardiff Blues wing appearing to suffer a dislocated kneecap, much to the horror of the crowd as the moment was replayed on the big screens.

After Robinson also departed injured in the 35th minute, Ceri Sweeney came on and the reshuffled back division had Henson at full-back, skipper Gareth Thomas on the wing and Hook at inside centre to accommodate the Dragons fly-half.

As half-time approached, referee Paul Honiss brought the rival skippers together and expressed his frustration, telling them to buck their ideas up because up to that point, "it was all negative".

No-one could argue with that assessment on a Test match that had largely been a skill-free zone in the opening half and the crowd clearly agreed as they booed the teams off at the break.

The Wallabies introduced Gregan at the restart and with the benefit of a dominant scrum, the hosts began to show their true colours.

First Sharpe and Huxley combined to send Digby Ioane racing away for his debut try four minutes into the second period and while Mortlock could not convert, his penalty 13 minutes later after Nathan Brew's high tackle on Matt Giteau, who had moved to centre, provided the cushion his side needed to let rip.

As the shackles came off, Mitchell showed his paces to round Michael Owen and dash 50 yards to the line and despite some brave efforts in attack from the visitors, they were unable to match the Wallabies' new-found zip and zest.

Huxley proved his value to the cause by copying Mike Phillips's chip-and-chase example. Except that in the Wallaby full-back's case it paid off in spectacular fashion as he gathered to claim a superb solo score.

Mortlock converted Mitchell and Huxley's touchdowns to take his side 31-0 ahead with 16 minutes remaining and that is how it remained as Wales suffered a 2-0 Test series defeat.

Man of the match: James Hook's star continues to rise, he was the only Welshman who looked capable of shaking the Wallabies during the second half. A number of Wallabies shone in the final stages - all feeding off the magnificence of George Gregan. Stirling Mortlock was his usual busy self, and Drew Mitchell roused the crowd from their slumber on a number of occasions. But our award goes to the tireless Wycliff Palu who put the Welsh on the backfoot and kept Australia's attacks ticking over by resuscitating moribund move after moribund move

Moment of the match: Surely the introduction of George Gregan. Try as they might to plan for life without him, the Wallabies are beginning to learn that he is utterly irreplaceable.

Villain of the match: All good clean (if slightly boring) fun, no award.

The scorers:

For Australia:

Tries: Ioane, Mitchell, Huxley

Cons: Mortlock 2

Pens: Mortlock 4

For Wales:

Tries:

Cons:

Pens:

Australia: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 Matt Giteau, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Stephen Hoiles, 20 Phil Waugh, 21 George Gregan, 22 Mark Gerrard

Wales: 15 Gareth Thomas (c), 14 Chris Czekaj, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Aled Brew, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Colin Charvis, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Michael Owen, 3 Ceri Jones, 2 Mefin Davies, 1 Iestyn Thomas.

Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Richard Hibbard, 18 Scott Morgan, 19 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 20 Andy Williams, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Gavin Henson.

Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

Television match official: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

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