Planet Rugby

Australia take home the bronze

21st October 2011 04:38

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australia v wales

Wallabies: End on a high note

Australia ended their World Cup campaign in third place after getting the better of Wales 21-18 in Friday's battle for bronze at Eden Park.

Both sides crossed the whitewash twice, with Wales bagging a consolation second try on full-time to end the match - but not the tournament - on a high note.

The two teams held nothing back, and went at it hammer and tongs from the kick-off in what was a fast and furious third place play-off encounter that left bodies battered and bruised.

Australia's casualty list was the longer of the two teams - losing playmakers Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper early on to injuries.

It was a double blow for the Wallabies, who had to change tack somewhat after being forced into a backline reshuffle with Berrick Barnes at pivot, Anthony Faingaa and Robert Horne forming the new midfield partnership and Adam Ashley-Cooper shifted to full-back.

It didn't disrupt Australia's momentum though, with Barnes showing some deft touches and superb vision in Cooper's absence while James O'Connor caused Wales all sorts of trouble out wide with ball in hand as well as from the kicking tee.

Barnes and O'Connor combined to contribute all but five of their side's points - Barnes picking up a try and a drop-goal, while O'Connor slotted two penalties and a conversion.

The same couldn't be said of the Welsh kickers, whose three missed kicks - four if you include a drop-goal - would come back and haunt them - just as it did against France in last weekend's semi-final. Like catches win matches in cricket, so do goal-kicks in rugby.

Leading 7-3 at half-time, the Wallabies relinquished their lead only once in the match when Wales wing Shane Williams went over for a sensational solo try eight minutes after the break. But with the touchline conversion missed, O'Connor put his team back in front with two quick-fire penalties and the Wallabies never looked back.

There was little separating the two teams when the match got underway in front of a capacity crowd in Auckland.

Both sides showed their intentions to run the ball at every opportunity that came their way, which paved the way for a free-flowing spectacle - stopped only for the wounded.

Before Beale and Cooper hobbled off the field, the latter was able to put Barnes over from close range after a delayed pass caught the Welsh off-guard. O'Connor landed the simple conversion, and Australia led by seven points after twelve minutes played.

The Wallabies came close to bagging try number two, only for Ashley-Cooper to spill the ball forward with the tryline begging.

Prop James Slipper was then penalised in the scrum which allowed James Hook to kick the opening points for his team, but then badly missed a straight-forward penalty attempt five minutes after the restart.

O'Connor should have restored Australia's advantage but his penalty effort rebounded back off the posts.

Wales were then off-target with another three-pointer as Leigh Halfpenny's long-range attempt sailed wide, leaving Australia to head into the interval with a four-point lead.

Wales had a chance to cut the deficit to just a point a few minutes into the second half, but once again Hook missed a regulation penalty attempt.

However, Wales gave their red-clad fans hope when they finally took their chance after a stab kick ahead and regather by Hook saw the ball flung wide to Williams who showed his footballing skills to score. The initial pass out wide looked forward but Williams hacked on and won the foot-race to the ball.

Australia replied with two O'Connor penalties in the 54th and 57th minutes respectively to open up a five-point lead, however Wales were let off the hook when his next attempt hit the posts. Barnes, though, gave the Wallabies some breathing space as he slotted over a cheeky drop-goal.

With Hook off and Stephen Jones on, the veteran set up a nail-biting finale with his 70th-minute penalty to take the scores to 11-16 and Wales requiring a converted try to win the match.

Australia should have sealed the deal through Ashley-Cooper with six minutes left on the clock, but a try-saving tackle by Wales wing George North kept his team's chances alive as the ball spilled from the full-back's grasp.

However, the Wallabies launched another raid and weren't to be denied a second time after number eight Ben McCalman made no mistake two minutes later as he took Saia Fainga'a's offload to score in the corner for the match-winner.

O'Connor missed the conversion from far out, but it mattered not as Wales trailed by 10 points with two minutes left.

Wales never gave up though, and were rewarded for their never-say-die attitude after Halfpenny dived over 28 phases later to finish the game on a positive note.

It was Australia's first win at Eden Park since 1986, but not against their Bledisloe Cup rivals New Zealand, who take on France at their fortress in Sunday's final.

This victory meant two-time champions Australia won their first bronze at the World Cup after losing 22-21 to Wales in the play-off for third place at the inaugural 1987 tournament in New Zealand.

Man of the match: For Wales, number eight Ryan Jones was simply superb, whilst James O'Connor was a threat throughout for the Wallabies. But Berrick Barnes delivered a masterly performance after moving from inside centre to fly-half and is deservedly our man of the match.

Moment of the match: It may have been a forward pass that allowed Wales to hit the front, but we're going with that fortuitous try to wing Shane Williams.

Villain of the match: Hmmm... Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau can consider himself lucky for escaping any punishment for his late shoulder charge on Shane Williams that saw the Welsh Wizard go flying behind the touchline.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Barnes, McCalman
Con: O'Connor
Pens: O'Connor 2
Drop: Barnes

For Wales:
Tries: S Williams, Halfpenny
Pens: Hook, S Jones
Cons: S Jones

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Toby Faletau, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Paul James, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Scott Williams.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill (c), 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Robert Horne.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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