Wallabies edge willing Wales
Sat, 30 Nov 2013 19:06
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Australia held on in the face of a string late charge by Wales to win 30-26 in Cardiff on Saturday.
It was a wonderful match. From start to finish it was exciting as two skilful, determined, adventurous teams went at it under the closed dome of the Millennium Stadium.
It was a game of great delight.
Last weekend we had Ireland and the All Blacks in Dublin, this week Wales and the Wallabies in Cardiff - two great matches to restore the belief in the game as one of skill and creativity, not just mindless repetition.
Not that they were games of tinsel and lollipop.
Both had a hard edge of intensity and ambition. Besides the running, passing and judicious kicking there were hard hits and ferocious contests. They were wonderful matches which simply flew past.
One of the great ingredients was unpredictability, not just at the line-outs of both sides but also in the run of play. The very first score of the match, inside the second minute of the game, was a case in point.
Both sides had players in the sin bin, but Wales were the ones to pay for it.
While Dan Biggar was off for 10 minutes, Australia went from 10-16 down to 20-16 up.
Quade Cooper was off for the last eight minutes of the match, but in that time Wales scored no points.
The Biggar exclusion was especially sad. He was penalised on the Welsh line and sent off. Australia scored in any case and then topped it up with a penalty before he came back.
The first score of the match was spectacular.
Wales kicked off, Australia went through phases and Israel Folau went smoothly through a gap and try looked likely, but the ball fell loose and Alun Wyn Jones fell on it to create a turnover of possession. Wales went left with a secure pass to Scott Williams who gave to George North on an overlap. North raced down the left and then, confronted by James Slipper he grubbered ahead and chased. Three Wallabies seemed to be beating him to the ball when it struck Adam Ashley-Cooper's right foot and bounced on to the line, giving North a clear run to the ball. At full tilt he gathered the ball bouncing low and plunged over in the corner, one minute and 46 seconds into the match. Leigh Halfpenny converted from near touch and Wales led 7-0. It was a brilliant start to the cut-and-thrust that continued.
Australia put on the pressure and Will Genia raced down the left and grubbered ahead but there was no repeat of the North try as Biggar saved the situation.
The line-outs were messy. Wales lost three of six in the first half, Australia two of five. Stephen Moore got a bouncing ball from an Australian line-out but was tackled as he tried to pass. Toby Faletau went to put pressure on but Rob Simmons held him back. The referee saw it and penalised Simmonds. Halfpenny goaled and Wales led 10-0 after 11 minutes.
Straight from the kick-off Richard Hibbard was penalised for sealing off at a tackle and Christian Leali'ifano goaled an easy kick - 10-3 after 13 minutes.
There were 25 penalties in the match, 16-9 in Wales's favour. Of those penalties 20 were at the tackle.
After a messy line-out Moore knocked on and Simmonds played the ball in front of him. Halfpenny goaled - 13-3 after 17 minutes.
The next score was brilliant. Wales had the ball but Sekope Kepu sailed into Hibbard and Michael Hooper won a turnover. The Wallabies went right, Cooper did a skip and got an underhand pass away to Joe Tomane near touch. Tackled by North Tomane threw a perfect pass infield to Leali'ifano who went over for a try which he converted - 13-10 after 20 minutes.
There was a wonderful moment when Halfpenny leapt to catch Folau's high kick and raced down the middle of the field to set up a Welsh attack. Kepu was penalised at a tackle and Biggar goaled to make it 16-10. Halfpenny had just before that hit an upright and seemed to be having a bit of trouble with his right leg.
There was a hectic period of play when an Australian score seemed inevitable. In a carbon copy of Leali'ifano's try they went right and Cooper got an underhand pass to Tomane who made ground and then passed infield to Genia who had nobody in front of him but the scrumhalf knocked on.
Wales used the advantage to kick downfield and then Nick Cummins counterattacked at speed and Moore got close but again Wales enjoyed a turnover and kicked downfield. This time Folau countered. He passed inside to Leali'ifano who passed towards James Horwill but Ian Evans grabbed the pass and Wales survived, kicking the ball into touch.
From the line-out the Wallabies went left and Folau stepped past Alex Cuthbert and headed for the line. Scott Williams brought him down at the line and Biggar dived in to smother the ball. The referee penalised Biggar and sent him to the sin bin.
Australia kicked out for a five-metre line-out. They tried to set a maul but the Welsh repelled them. They went right where North thumped a great tackle into Ashley-Cooper and Hibbard sailed into Mowen but Folau easily got through Phillips to score far out. Leali'ifano converted and the Wallabies led 17-16 after 38 minutes. That was the half-time score.
Australia won the kick-off to start the second half and attacked. Halfpenny did not kick out and Cummins raced in counterattack until tackled by Faletau. Rhodri Jones was penalised and Leali'ifano goaled. 20-16 after 43 minutes.
Genia tapped a penalty and the Wallabies attacked but Cummins lost the ball in Cuthbert's tackle. This led to a scrum - the first one of the match. There was not a single scrum in the first half, so much for the Wales's stated determination of taking the Wallabies on at the scrums. In fact there were only six scrums in the match - with four collapses, two resets, two penalties and a free kick.
The Wallabies attacked and went far right, then far left and then out to the right again where Folau gave Tomane the pass that enabled him to score right in the corner. Leali'ifano converted brilliantly - 27-17 after 48 minutes.
The Wallabies went further ahead when Biggar was penalised for holding on at a tackle and Leali'ifano goaled - 30-16 after 52 minutes.
Then Wales showed their character and spirit. They came close to scoring on the left when a magnificent, long pass by Biggar to Liam Williams (on for Owen Williams) created a great scoring chance but he ignored North free on his left and cut in to the right where he was tackled three metres from the line.
North was now playing at centre and his presence made a great difference to Wales's incisiveness.
Wales tapped a penalty and went left. They came back right and North, with clever footwork, cut through two defenders and scored under the posts as Folau tacked him - 30-23 after 59 minutes.
Most of the last quarter of the game belonged to Wales and when Rhys Priestland goaled a penalty the score was 30-26 with 12 minutes to play.
Wales were close to scoring when Justin Tuperic struggled to pass to Scott Williams and North gathered to go over. But the pass was ruled forward and Cooper was penalised and sin-binned for an early tackle on Scott Williams. Wales kicked out for a six-metre line-out but the line-out was so messy that they could not structure a maul.
Then with time up they had the ball but Priestland grubbered towards to touch to end a glorious match with a third Australian victory on their tour.
Man of the Match: He may be from the losing team, but our award goes to George North, who was even more imposing than Israel Folau.
Moment of the Match: It simply has to be the Quade Cooper pass that ended with a try to Christian Leali'ifano.
Villain of the Match: It's hard to label the yellow-cardists villains as they suffered in their country's cause, possibly from being too eager. But it was such a well-mannered match that the snarly behaviour of Mike Phillips, involved in the only silly incidents, would qualify him for the Villain of the Match.
Tries: North 2
Cons: Halfpenny, Biggar
Pens: Halfpenny 2, Biggar, Priestland
Tries: Lealiifano, Folau, Tomane
Cons: Lealiifano 3
Pens: Lealiifano 3
Yellow cards: Dan Biggar (Wales, 36 - professional foul, killed the ball a metre from the line), Quade Cooper (Australia, 74 - professional foul, early tackle)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Scott Williams, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Liam Williams.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Nic White, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Bernard Foley.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
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