Australia held off Wales to condemn their hosts to yet another defeat against a southern giant, going down 33-28 in Cardiff on Saturday.
Australia held off a spirited effort from Wales to condemn their hosts to yet another defeat against their visitors, going down 33-28 on Saturday.
If it wasn’t before, it is now a worrying trend for Wales one year out from the World Cup as they went down to their upcoming Pool A rivals.
They had a chance to win but in the end first-half errors and late ill-disciplined saw Australia prevail.
There were no penalties on the board during the first-half as both teams enjoyed lots of space to unleash their dangerous runners in back play.
And it was a player who deserved his start at the base who got the ball rolling as the Osprey Rhys Webb capitalised on space around the ruck after captain Sam Warburton’s break, running through untouched from 20 metres out before Leigh Halfpenny landed the successful conversion.
It set the tone for a try-happy half as then Wallaby captain Michael Hooper ran hard at Dan Biggar before offloading to Israel Folau to level.
20 minutes had been played when Folau doubled both his personal and team’s account, intercepting a speculative pass from Webb as he set off to the try-line from his own 22. Bernard Foley sent over the extras as it was a 14-7 ball game on the new hybrid surface.
Wales again displayed tenacity to bounce back and when George North broke on halfway before finding wing Alex Cuthbert for the run-in, we were level at the Millennium Stadium.
The pattern continued on the half-hour mark as in-form centre Tevita Kuridrani powered through the tackles of lock Alun-Wyn Jones and Cuthbert for a strong run to the uprights. With Foley’s two points the Wallabies had once more moved into a seven-point lead.
With Halfpenny having hobbled off, Wales though made some pressure count before half-time as Jones picked from one metre out to make it 21-21 at the break with Biggar’s kick. Fortunately for Wales, it didn’t go to the TMO as it looked like double movement.
Upon the turnaround it was Australia who began the stronger as Foley made it 24-21.
Wales meanwhile could have levelled from distance but went for the corner with replacement Rhys Priestland’s first touch due to Biggar hobbling off. Webb soon followed.
Foley continued his great game with a further three points on 56 minutes that made it a 27-21 lead for the Wallabies but thus followed a purple patch for Wales in the visitors 22. They turned the screw at scrum-time and eventually got their reward with a penalty try for the lead.
However, as so often has been the case for Wales against the southern hemisphere giants, they could not finish the job as a smartly taken Foley drop and then then his third penalty of the game saw the Wallabies to victory. Wales, again, wonder what might have been.
Man of the match: He directed Australia superbly well, with his points key to the victory. Hats off to fly-half Bernard Foley, with mentions going to Sam Warburton and Israel Folau.
Moment of the match: Poor Rhys Webb. He started strongly with a try but his intercept pass to Israel Folau was a sucker punch to Wales in the first-half. A gift seven points.
Villain of the match: Nothing nasty to report.
Tries: Webb, Cuthbert, AW Jones, Penalty
Con: Halfpenny 2, Biggar, Priestland
Tries: Folau 2, Kuridrani
Con: Foley 3
Pen: Foley 3
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Cory Allen.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Will Skelton, 21 Matt Hodgson, 22 Will Genia, 23 Rob Horne.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), JP Doyle (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)