Following a 39-34 victory for Australia over Wales in their Autumn Nations Series fixture, here’s our five takeaways from the match in Cardiff on Saturday.
Room to breathe for Dave Rennie but what next for Wayne Pivac?
The pressure was on both Wales and Australia head coaches ahead of this fixture and it is fair to say the tension was visible on Pivac’s face before kick-off in Cardiff. Fast forward 50 minutes into the match, with his side comfortably in front, one could see the relief in the Welsh coaching box as they thought the win was all but assured. How wrong they were as the game swung dramatically and defeat came their way.
Indeed, the Wallabies fought their way back from 34-13 down to win 39-34, turning frowns into smiles in their camp and leaving head coach Rennie with a much-needed victory before they make the long flight home. While it has been a tough tour results-wise, performances have arguably been adequate. However, this win will taste extra sweet for those in gold, especially with the number of players ruled out injured.
It’s subsequently Pivac, not Rennie, feeling the weight on his shoulders this winter as the pressure mounts before a Rugby World Cup year. Do Wales make a change before the Six Nations or must they stick with their man and back him to turn things around before France 2023?
Wallabies’ fight clear in stunning finish at Principality Stadium
Leading on from that, it is clear the Wallabies are making progress in terms of performance as close defeats have now finally been turned into a victory on tour. While discipline remains an issue, there’s no questioning the fight from the players as they never gave in in Cardiff.
Despite all of those injuries to deal with leading up to this game, to battle from 21 points down and win shows a lot about those on the field and the depth Australia possess at the moment. They are building nicely and can take a great deal of lessons and confidence from this tour.
Alun Wyn Jones rolls back the years in strong pack showing
Who you gonna call? Alun Wyn Jones offered so much on his return to the starting line-up as an early line break that led to him laying it off to Jac Morgan for the game’s opening try was the start of a superb individual performance. Jones was a picture of calmness in possession – something that was missing for Wales against Georgia last week – as the veteran helped inspire a much improved showing from the pack.
For most of the game – before that Wallabies fightback – Wales were dominant at both the scrum and lineout drive as they gave Australia plenty of problems. For those who thought it might be time for Wales to look past Jones, this was a performance that silenced the doubters.
Youngsters Jac Morgan and Mark Nawaqanitawase shine
The Wales flanker showed his quality against Australia on Saturday with one of the best ball-carrying performances in the Autumn Nations Series, making over 100 metres, breaking several tackles and scoring a brace of tries as he showed once again just what a serious talent he is.
The Ospreys back-row was one of Wales’s game drivers on both sides of the ball as he reached double figures in his tackle count, showing a tremendous work rate adding to his potency with ball in hand. Morgan was everywhere on the pitch and barely made an error as he simply has to be in the Wales starting line-up going forward. Any doubts about his abilities will surely have evaporated after this Test performance.
Watch out for Mark Nawaqanitawase in space 💪
— Wallabies (@wallabies) November 26, 2022
The same could be said of Nawaqanitawase after his own two-try showing, with the young Waratahs wing growing into the game as it wore on. He looks very much at home at this level as he capped a meteoric rise in 2022 in fine style, helping his side claim a memorable triumph.
Wallabies find continuity after early struggles
After losing several players to injury during the week, adding to the problems they were already enduring on the playing front, it was no surprise to see the visitors lack precision early on, both with and without the ball. There were a series of mistakes on attack, despite the Wallabies creating some promising situations, while their defence was all at sea as Wales took an early grip on proceedings in Cardiff.
It was far too easy for Wales to break through off phase play and in the set-piece, leaving them with a mountain to climb. However, ascend they did as Rennie’s men produced a wonderful fightback. Tate McDermott was superb off the bench and increased the tempo as they began to put Wales under pressure. The hosts duly imploded and it all led to the Wallabies producing one of the greatest comebacks in Test history.